Florida KidCare expansion may be done deal as chambers advance health care priorities

The Senate is poised to go along with House Speaker Paul Renner’s push to, for the first time in 25 years, expand eligibility for the Florida KidCare program.

Renner has championed increasing income eligibility for children whose families earn up to 300% of the federal poverty level (FPL), or $90,000 for a family of four. The Florida KidCare program eligibility limit is currently 215% of the FPL, or $64,500 for a family of four.

While the House had been moving its KidCare expansion proposal (HB 121) and even included $34 million in its proposed budget for the expansion, the Senate companion bill (SB 246) had lingered in the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee since March.

Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee Chair Gayle Harrell told Florida Politics she hadn’t scheduled the bill for consideration because she was taking a close look at the proposal and wanted to ensure she had the money in her budget necessary to fund the expansion.

“I am looking very seriously at it and if we can find the dollars, I am amenable to doing it,” she said on March 30.

But on Wednesday, Harrell’s spending panel considered the bill and approved an amendment making it identical to the House counterpart before voting unanimously to advance it to the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee.

Before the vote, Harrell thanked the sponsor, Sen. Alexis Calatayud, for filing what she called a “tremendous bill.”

“We’ve had to make sure we have enough resources to do this and I think it’s a great step forward for our children and our families,” she said.

Florida KidCare provides children whose families earn too much to qualify for traditional Medicaid, from birth through age 18, access to a subsidized health care policy. The program is administered by The Florida Healthy Kids Corporation.

Florida Healthy Kids Corporation Board of Directors Chairperson Stephanie Haridopolis told Florida Politics she is “beaming with joy right now.”

Renner is pushing for the expansion as Florida’s minimum wage increases and as the state begins to unwind from the public health emergency and return its Medicaid rolls back to pre-pandemic rules. The state is expecting upward of 1.7 million people to be disenrolled from the Medicaid program over the next year. Many of those who will be removed are children.

Now that Renner’s priority is advancing in the Senate, the House has started moving Senate President Kathleen Passidomo’s priority health care legislation addressing the titles that health care providers can use on the job and in advertisements. The Senate unanimously passed the bill (SB 230) March 15 and immediately sent it to the House.

But the House had not considered its version of the bill (HB 583) until April 4, when it was approved by the House Healthcare Regulation Subcommittee.

Initially, the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee was the bill’s second committee stop but House leadership on April 5 removed the bill from the subcommittee. That means HB 583 is ready to be heard next by the House Health & Human Services Committee, its last stop before being eligible to be heard by the full House.

While the House and Senate bills are not yet identical, one health care lobbyist said the differences “could be worked out in a 10-minute conversation.”




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