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Report: "Insuring" Success of Florida's Hispanic Children

Photo: The percentage of uninsured Hispanic children in Florida is above the national average, according to the report released by the National Council of La Raza and Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. Photo credit: National Council of La Raza and Georgetown University Center for Children and Families
Photo: The percentage of uninsured Hispanic children in Florida is above the national average, according to the report released by the National Council of La Raza and Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. Photo credit: National Council of La Raza and Georgetown University Center for Children and Families
November 13, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Many Hispanic children in Florida are eligible for health coverage, but aren't able to access it, according to a report released this week by the National Council of La Raza and Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.

While the number of uninsured Hispanic children in the United States is decreasing – falling by more than half a million since 2009 – Florida is making less progress when compared with the national average.

Scott Darius, digital and community organizer for the health advocacy group Florida CHAIN, says the problem has the potential to impact the children for their entire life.

"You can't go (through) those crucial years of development without seeing a doctor, so a lot of these kids end up getting sick,” he says. “They have no access to care and they end up missing school days, and that just slows them down the rest of their lives. "

In Florida, 20,000 immigrant children who are legal citizens are unable to obtain coverage through KidCare because of the five-year waiting period currently in place.

Last year the U.S. Congress authorized states to lift that waiting period, but Florida lawmakers have not done that yet.

Ninety-three percent of the country's Hispanic children are classified as U.S. citizens.

Sonya Schwartz, co-author of the report, says it's important that immigrant parents understand that if their children are U.S. citizens they are eligible for coverage, regardless of their parents' immigration status.

"In Florida, many kids are already eligible for KidCare, but may not be enrolled because their parents may not know about KidCare or they may be worried about applying for a public program,” Schwartz says. “So it's really important for families to realize that it's safe to apply, even if not everyone in the home is a citizen. "

According to the report, in Florida more than 14 percent of Hispanic children are uninsured, although that number fell by a little more than 1,300 from 2011 to 2013.

Darius says raising a generation of children without health insurance is keeping the cycle going.

"So now we have a whole group of kids, a whole generation of kids, growing up without insurance themselves so when they grow up they don't get insured, and that cycle just perpetuates itself," he points out.

The report recommends encouraging states to extend Medicaid coverage to uninsured parents and other adults.

For more information on health coverage for children, call 1-877-KIDS-NOW.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - FL