Column: Let's make medical care affordable for Florida's kids

Published Feb. 28, 2019

Imagine a young child sitting in class, staring out a nearby window, unable to concentrate due to the terrible and nagging pain of a prolonged ear infection. Now, picture a parent with no family insurance coverage struggling to find the funds to take that child to the pediatrician. Think of the many missed days of school — and work — caused by a simple infection to treat.

As a long-time family physician, I can tell you I have seen this scenario far too many times. Nearly 325,000 children in our state lack insurance coverage, and as the newly named chair of the Florida Healthy Kids Corporation's board of directors, I have a mission to create a wave of change in children's health care.

The corporation works daily to expand access to affordable, child-centered health and dental insurance coverage for kids through the Florida KidCare program. It combines Medicaid with three programs mostly funded by the federal Children's Health Insurance Program — Florida Healthy Kids, MediKids and the Children's Medical Services Managed Care Plan — that provide free or low-cost coverage to families with low or moderate incomes. Florida KidCare also offers uniquely crafted full-pay coverage options for families whose income exceeds the standards for reduced cost coverage. In total, four programs currently cover nearly 2.4 million Florida kids from birth through the end of age 18.

To put this into practical terms, a family of four in Florida earning an annual household income of $50,200 or less, likely qualifies for Florida KidCare coverage at a reduced cost of $20 a month for all kids in the family. Families earning more than that — even by a few dollars — oftentimes struggle to find affordable options when employer-sponsored family coverage may cost $800 or even $1,200 per month. We believe our corporation's current full-pay plan offers a more affordable solution to families finding themselves in this situation, but the $3,000 medical deductible and $1,500 pharmacy deductible — both of which are per child out-of-pocket costs — can be a struggle. When families cannot find an affordable solution for health insurance coverage, they feel forced to go without. We have a plan to help change this troubling trend.

This legislative session, we're working with Florida's House and Senate leaders on an innovative proposal to transform the corporation's current full-pay plan into a better, more affordable choice. The new proposal offers not only a cheaper monthly premium but reduces both annual deductibles down to $0. That's a significant savings for those who could use the extra dollars every month for other necessities. In fact, 146,000 of the 325,000 uninsured children in our state are part of families who fall into this category. That's a whopping 44 percent.

As a mother of three beautiful kids, I know nothing is more important than standing up for the health, success and future of Florida's kids. If you are a parent struggling to pay the cost of your child's health insurance, I urge you to consider Florida KidCare and I'd like to hear from you. Your stories are what drive us forward and will help push this proposal successfully across the finish line.

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Dr. Stephanie Haridopolos, a board-certified family medicine physician practicing for nearly 20 years, lives in Brevard County. Reach her at