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Shortsighted move hurts kids, Florida

By Tonyaa Weathersbee
Proquest LLC

It's hard to see how Florida is going to have a real future when its lawmakers keep allowing five years to stand in the way.

That seems to be the case when it comes to children of immigrants who are legally living in Florida.

The Florida Legislature failed to pass a bill that would have eliminated the five-year residency requirement before children of legal immigrants in low- and moderate-income families can receive KidCare, a subsidized child health insurance program.

Right now poor, uninsured immigrant children who become ill or injured - and haven't lived in Florida for five years - must rely on emergency rooms for treatment.

And that's always a costlier alternative.

The bill to waive the waiting period was sponsored by two Republican Florida lawmakers, Sen. Rene Garcia and Rep. Jose Felix Diaz. SHORTSIGHTED DECISION

In 2009, Congress passed a law allowing states to extend Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program eligibility to children living legally in their states - and with no waiting period.

Since then, 21 states have done just that.

And child advocates here were hoping Florida's bill, which would have helped more than 20,000 poor, immigrant children, would finally pass after two years of failure.

It didn't.

Diaz told The News Service of Florida that the bill died because of too much uncertainty about its cost.

But opponents had also raised concerns that the bill would lead to children of undocumented immigrants being covered.

Regardless of what led to the bill's defeat, the failure to pass it is shortsighted.

It makes no sense for a child suffering from a chronic health condition to keep waiting five years to receive consistent care, all while the condition likely becomes more expensive to treat.

"It is the definition of penny-wise, pound-foolish to withhold basic health care from children," said Jack Levine, a longtime children's advocate who now heads the 4Generations Institute, a Tallahassee-based organization that addresses the needs of families and communities.

There are No Baby Steps in Sales.

"An unhealthy child is not only a moral embarrassment but an economic disaster," Levine told me.POOR MOVE FOR FLORIDA'S FUTURE

The decision is also a bad one for Florida's future.

In 2009, 86.1 percent of children in Florida with immigrant parents were U.S. citizens, according to the Immigration Policy Center.

Some of those children were born to undocumented immigrants.

But many others were born to parents who are legal immigrants. And they are the children who would be covered by eliminating the five-year waiting period for KidCare.

The fact is Florida has the third-largest Latino population in the United States.

And as more immigrants have children, it could impact the health of other children if poor Latino families are forced to send sick children to schools and other places.

"If anything, you want that child to be healthy because they're going to come into contact with your child," Levine said.

"There are no more moats and bridges in our society."- tonyaaweathersbee@yahoo.com- Follow her @tonyaajw.- Like her at www.facebook.com/tonyaajweathersbee.- Or visit her at www.tonyaajweathersbee.com.

Copyright:(c) 2014 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.
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