Winter Park Health Foundation Offers $600,000 Grant to Revive Healthy Kids Program for Uninsured Orange County Children

Investment to be announced today in Tampa at the Governor’s Task Force on Access to Affordable Health Insurance

Christina, a seven-year-old Orlandoan gets regular care for her chronic asthma and no longer has to rely on expensive emergency room treatment to address flare-ups now that she is enrolled in the Healthy Kids insurance program.

And 15-year-old Mandy is back in school now that she is covered by the insurance that pays for her to get treatment for a painful ovarian cyst. Before that, she often had to stay in bed.

Hoping to multiply these health success stories for many more Orange County children, the Winter Park Health Foundation is offering a $600,000 grant to help reinstate the Healthy Kids low-cost insurance program in the county.

This investment in our community’s children will be announced by Patricia Maddox, Foundation president, at the Governor’s Task Force on Access to Affordable Health Insurance, today in Tampa. This one-time offering is meant to help kids get off the program’s waiting list and on the road to good health care.

Healthy Kids is part of Florida’s KidCare family of programs serving uninsured children, first sparked by The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 which created the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan (SCHIP).

Healthy Kids provides affordable health insurance coverage for children ages 5 through 18 from households with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid coverage. It is funded through a combination of state and federal monies with a state investment of 29 cents to access the federal match of 71 cents for insurance coverage.

In a last minute effort to reduce the 2003-2004 fiscal year budget, Florida Legislators capped enrollment in Healthy Kids as of June 30, 2003. This meant families seeking coverage were put on a waiting list that now exceeds 2,400 children in Orange County. There are tens of thousands more children on waiting lists around the state.

To accept the Foundation’s local money and access the federal dollars so new Healthy Kids enrollment can begin again, Governor Jeb Bush has the opportunity to place this item on the agenda of the Legislative Budget Commission which meets December 11, 2003 in Tallahassee. The Commission can authorize the budget authority needed to draw down federal dollars to match the local investment. That approval could mean that Orange County children like Christina and Mandy again will be able to enroll in Healthy Kids.

The Foundation’s offer is thought to be the first of its kind in the state following the cap on enrollment. “We are so pleased to have the opportunity to make an investment that has the potential to do so much for so many children,” said Joan Ruffier, vice chairman of the Foundation and chairman of its committee on health access. It is estimated that this investment and the federal match dollars will provide health insurance coverage for approximately 2,100 kids based on a one-year period.

This investment reflects the Winter Park Health Foundation’s goals for our community. The Foundation is a private, not-for-profit organization which provides more than $4 million a year to support community projects that promote equal access to health care, healthy youth and vital senior citizens. The ultimate goal is to make Central Florida the healthiest community in the United States.

“We believe that the health of our children is of utmost importance; it is crucial to the health and future of the community,” said Patricia Maddox, the Foundation’s president.

“This gives us a chance to capitalize on good work already underway; Healthy Kids is a great program,” Maddox said. “Healthcare issues are complex and require we share responsibility for solutions,” she said. “We’re all in this together and our Foundation is thrilled to announce this private-public partnership to ensure that local children have appropriate access to medical care through health insurance coverage.”

“It makes sense financially as well,” Ruffier said. The local grant of $600,000, when supplemented by the federal match of more than $1.46 million, could mean more than $2 million in vital health insurance coverage for Orange County’s children.

“The funding will be a godsend for us,” said Linda Sutherland, executive director of Healthy Start Coalition of Orange County, Inc. which has been responsible for handling outreach and enrollment for the Healthy Kids program in Orange County.

“Almost every day we receive phone calls from parents who want to enroll their children in the Healthy Kids program. They don’t know where to turn for coverage. They are desperate for help,” Sutherland continues. “We are inspired by the Foundation’s leadership role in providing this opportunity.”

“We hope our leaders in state government will work quickly to provide the authority to process the Foundation’s generous grant. Then, we must collectively focus on full reinstatement of the program in Orange County and throughout the state for the 2004-2005 budget year,” Sutherland said. “Our families need help now.”

Members of the Governor’s Task Force on Access to Affordable Health Insurance are charged with gathering information to make recommendations on ways to improve access to affordable health insurance while providing consumer choice. The Task Force is co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings and Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher. A final report is due in February.

Why No Child Should be Left Behind When It Comes to Healthcare Insurance

The Facts

  • The Florida Legislature, in a last minute effort to balance the budget last spring, capped enrollment in the Healthy Kids program. Healthy Kids provides affordable health insurance coverage for Florida children ages 5 through 18 in households earning too much to qualify for Medicaid.
  • The Winter Park Health Foundation announced a one-time investment of $600,000 on November 17, 2003 designed to fill the gap in healthcare insurance coverage for Orange County children.
  • There is a need for leadership to find the necessary long-term solutions to this problem.
  • The need for assistance is urgent. As of November 5, 2003, there were 2,471 children waiting to enroll in the Healthy Kids program in Orange County alone, and the number is growing at a rate of about 200 a month.
  • Healthy children perform better in school. There is a relationship between providing insurance and school performance. According to a Consumer’s Union report, there are a number of studies that show insured children are more likely to be healthy and healthy children are more likely to succeed in school.
  • Poor health affects a child’s performance in a number of ways, according to the Consumer’s Union report. It can result in absenteeism, the inability to concentrate and produce disruptive behavior that can affect others in the classroom.
  • Participating in the Healthy Kids program makes good financial sense. It maximizes revenues from the state that serve as a match for federal monies. The state receives 71 cents in a match from the federal government for each 21 cents it contributes.
  • Health insurance coverage often results in improved access and appropriate use of a variety of health care services, which can decrease the use of more costly emergency and other specialized services.
  • The lack of healthcare is costly to everyone, according to a July, 2003 Institute of Medicine report. The loss of coverage costs society in terms of lost health and longevity, financial risk within families affected and lost productivity. In addition, the report notes that the cost of providing needed services to the uninsured “fall disproportionately on the local communities where care is provided.”
  • This action by the Winter Park Health Foundation reflects the vision and strategic direction advised by key members of the Orange County community who worked diligently for over a year during the Access for Health planning initiative developing recommendations to reach 100% Access to Healthcare and Zero Health Disparities for Orange County residents. A core theme that surfaced is “coverage is critical.”