SPEAKING OUT

Changing Florida's Healthy Kids Program


Published: Thursday, July 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 30, 2004 at 10:53 p.m.

There are few things more distressing for a parent than a sick child, and the scenario can be even worse if that child is uninsured. Access to doctors and preventative care is out of reach for some working families because of the high cost of private health insurance.

That's why Florida Healthy Kids was created in 1990 - to give families affordable health care options and peace of mind. In Alachua County, 2,244 kids are enrolled in the program.

This year, Florida lawmakers approved the most significant funding increase in the history of the program, allowing more than 90,000 additional uninsured children to enroll in Healthy Kids and KidCare. That means in 2005, nearly 400,000 Florida children will have access to affordable, quality health care through the program.

In addition, the governor and the Legislature strengthened the state's commitment to these children by taking steps to ensure the long-term stability of the program. These steps included minor changes to the application and re-instituting the open enrollment periods that were established when the Healthy Kids pilot program began in Volusia County more than a decade ago.

These changes are good for the Healthy Kids program because they increase accountability and reestablish the sound business model on which Healthy Kids was originally founded, following the proven practices of private business.

The new guidelines go into effect today, and Healthy Kids is taking steps to ensure that no family has an unnecessary gap in their Healthy Kids coverage.

Over the next six months, through an aggressive communications campaign called Project Pathfinder, families of eligible children enrolled in Healthy Kids will receive a newsletter with detailed information about the changes, a pre-printed application for re-enrollment and follow up phone calls to make sure they know how simple it is to keep their child covered.

Other states with similar programs have told us that some kids lose coverage each year because of poor communication. Project Pathfinder is the result of what we learned from their mistakes and our goal is to take these families by the hand, walk them through the simple steps and keep them covered.

Since 1990, Healthy Kids has thrived and grown because of strong, bipartisan support from the Legislature and from the community. Florida's Healthy Kids was the innovative leader then, as proven by its expansion to 49 other states, and that groundbreaking leadership continues today with Project Pathfinder. I know these changes are good and will allow us to continue providing Florida's uninsured children with access to quality health care, and families with peace of mind.

For more information about Healthy Kids, call us at 1-800-821-KIDS (5437) or visit our Web site at www.healthykids.org.

Rose Naff is executive director of Florida Healthy Kids.

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