Some 800 Orange County children will be eligible to receive low-cost Healthy Kids health insurance because of a positive vote by the Florida Legislative Budget Commission on Thursday at their Tallahassee meeting.

By their action, the LBC has cleared away an administrative hurdle, permitting the acceptance of a $600,000 grant offered by the Winter Park Health Foundation. In turn, the State of Florida now will be able to access a nearly 3-1 federal match for the Foundation’s grant.

The grant will be issued to and administered by the Healthy Start Coalition of Orange County, Inc., the agency responsible for handling outreach and enrollment for the Healthy Kids program in Orange County.

The Winter Park Health Foundation, 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 children and vital senior citizens, made its offer because “we believe that the health of our children is of utmost importance,” said Patricia Maddox, Foundation president. “The investment makes good financial sense,” she added, “because it maximizes the use of local dollars, the cost of the insurance is low, and it helps deliver vital health services to needy children.”

For the past two years, Orange County Government has contributed $95,000 as a local match for the Healthy Kids insurance program. This year, Orange County is partnering with the Winter Park Health Foundation and will again contribute $95,000, bringing the total local contribution to $695,000.

This amount, when combined with the federal match dollars, will enable approximately 800 of the estimated 3,000 children on Orange County’s waiting list to receive Healthy Kids coverage for the next three years.

Healthy Kids is part of Florida’s KidCare family of programs serving uninsured children. The popular program provides affordable health insurance 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 the state contributing 29 cents to get a federal match of 71 cents for each dollar of insurance coverage.

The Foundation initially made its one-time offer in November, 2003 in hopes of eliminating the waiting list in Orange County that occurred after the Florida Legislature capped enrollment in the program effective July 1. The original intent of the grant was two-fold: to cover all children on the local waiting list and to raise awareness of the need to eliminate the cap and reinstate coverage for all children in Florida.

While more than 3,000 children are on the Orange County waiting list, there are more than 76,000 on lists throughout Florida. And the lists are growing.

The Foundation originally had hoped the money could be used during a single year to eliminate the entire Orange County waiting list. But because of concerns about the availability of state and federal money in future years, state officials stipulated that they could only accept the donated money if it was distributed over three years.

“The problem of uninsured children touches us all,” said Maddox. “Healthy children are the foundation of a healthy community.”

“We are committed to doing what we can to keep attention focused on this statewide crisis,” she added. “Everyone needs to get involved to make sure children throughout Florida get the care they need today and in the future. We need a long-term, state-wide solution.”