Thursday, May 17, 2007

Clock Ticking On KidCare

Florida lost $20 million in federal funds for KidCare because Jeb Bush wanted to cut funding for the program. The program has over 700,000 children on a waiting list for medical treatment. Senate President Ken Pruitt killed a bill that would have made enrollment easier. The message is clear. Republicans want to see KidCare and the Agency for Persons with Disabilities die.

Rep. Kathy Castor is pushing the state legislature to call a special session on KidCare. Federal funds are allotted based on enrollment. Florida will lose (another) $20 million if enrollment is not increased.

"The timing is critical because of the reauthorization of SCHIP to be taken up by Congress over the next several months," Castor said. "We've got to be able to argue that even though Florida has lost ground over the last several years, we've made a commitment, we've put in these reforms."

Marco Rubio said that KidCare will be in the special session.. Governor Charlie Crist has been noncommittal on if he will push for KidCare in the special session. Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to Crist urging him to include KidCare in the special session.

In the letter to Crist, Democratic legislative leaders wrote, "It seems to us that you, along with [CFO] Alex Sink, could lead negotiations over the next month with representatives from the Legislature and the provider community to iron out the remaining few details." The lawmakers added, "If you are able to succeed in forging a final product, we would urge you to include KidCare reform in the June special session."

Will Crist use his high approval rating to reform KidCare? The Governor has an excellent opportunity to lead. Lackluster answers as there "may be an opportunity" to put KidCare in the special sessiion won't put pressure on the Florida legislature.

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