Senate Democrats want Gov. Rick Scott to ask the federal government to let families recovering from the hurricane, and who insure their children through the federal and state subsidized KidCare insurance program, to be excused from paying for their KidCare premiums in October and November.
The governor and the KidCare agencies have refrained from asking for a federal waiver, preferring instead to give families who lost jobs, income and homes in Hurricane Irma an extension of the Oct. 1 deadline. As a result, families must make two payments by Oct. 31 in order to make sure their children remain insured under the state and federal program.
Related: State tells parents to ‘pay up’ or lose kids’ insurance if Irma caused missed payment
"Thousands of Florida families were hit hard by the hurricane and are working to get their homes, jobs and lives back in order,'' wrote Sen. Oscar Braynon, the Senate Democratic leader in a letter to Scott.
"Merely extending the time to pay a premium until the end of the month, and then compounding it by asking for a double payment, adds to the financial hardships with which many of them are currently struggling. Given the ongoing emergency situation, these fees should have been waived."
KidCare covers about 160,000 children ages 5-18 and charges most families $15 to $20 a month depending on their family size and income.
After the Herald/Times published a report on the issue last week, the Agency for Health Care Administration said in a statement it would consider “further extending the deadline should the need arise” and “will work with every family to ensure there is NO lapse in coverage due to Hurricane Irma.”
Braynon noted the precedent set by former Gov. Jeb Bush in 2005 after four hurricanes hit Florida that year. Bush waived the premiums for families with children in the KidCare program, and pointed to the experience in Texas.
"Texas got rapid federal approval to waive cost sharing and enrollment fees for families enrolled in their children’s health insurance program through the end of November,'' he said. "Florida’s children are no less deserving of this kind of help."
Last month, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam waived the $55 fee to replace a concealed weapons license, saying at the time that “the last thing someone needs to worry about is paying a fee to have their concealed weapon license or security guard license replaced.”
The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has since told the Herald/Times that 246 people have asked for waivers and the $3,690 in lost revenue to the state was covered by the $76.7 million balance in the Licensing Trust Fund.
AHCA has not been able to provide a number as to how many families have sought the deadline extension and have not been provided an answer as to what it would cost the state to waive the premiums for October and November for these families.
Photo: Reina Lobo holds her grandson, Julio, in this 2014 photo. The family met with Nadine Gousse, of the Human Services Coalition, a group working to enroll low-income Hispanic children in Florida KidCare. Enrique Flor firstname.lastname@example.org