News & Events

Cindy Arenberg Seltzer: Care for Florida’s children

By Cindy Arenberg Seltzer

April 11, 2014

The rich diversity of South Florida is one of its best features. We are fortunate to live in a place where many want to come seeking a new life, because this country remains The Land of Opportunities, and this region is one of its most desirable for them and their children. By uprooting from their original country, they bring fresh energy and ideas.

Children from these families, like all children, are prone to typical pediatric illnesses that, if unchecked, can worsen and even have serious life-long consequences. Prior to 2009, federal law mandated a five year waiting period for legal immigrants — including children and pregnant women — to apply for and receive social service benefits such as Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

In 2009, the CHIP Reauthorization Act permitted states to remove the five-year period and allow children immediate eligibility. Sen. Rene Garcia’s Florida KidCare Program Bill (SB 282), and its House companion (HB 7) by Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, is currently moving through committees this legislative session.

The bill would allow for children of legal immigrants to be covered under Medicaid or CHIP, who also meet other eligibility qualifications.

KidCare also offers an opportunity under the Healthy Kids and the Medikids components for the family to obtain coverage for their children by paying the full premium for families who do not otherwise qualify for assistance. Extending coverage to federally-eligible children not only improves their health outcomes, but also reduces the cost of uncompensated care in the healthcare system overall. Last year, the North and South Broward Hospital Districts had nearly $1.6 billion in uncompensated care.

The maximum cost to the state would be approximately $19.7 million, and the state would benefit from roughly $49.5 million in federal matching funds.

The Agency for Health Care Administration has estimated that nearly 25,555 lawfully-residing immigrant children would benefit from the passage of this bill; a small price to pay to reduce the costs of providing Emergency Medicaid Assistance for Non-Citizens.

Since the passage of CHIPRA in 2009, 26 states have adopted this option to extend coverage to millions of legally-documented children. It’s time that Florida join the rest of the nation in caring for its children.

Cindy Arenberg Seltzer is the president/CEO of the Children’s Services Council of Broward County.