TALLAHASSEE, FL – While the Sunshine State ranks among the top 10 states with the highest rates of uninsured children, it did see more kids with health coverage during the pandemic, thanks to federal protections set to expire next year.
Florida’s uninsured-child rate dropped from 7.6 % to 7.3 % in 2021, according to a new report from Georgetown University.
Erica Li, policy analyst at the Florida Policy Institute, said it is welcome news to see the number of kids without health insurance drop from 343,000 before the pandemic, to 332,000 in 2021, as it leads to longer-term benefits.
“We know that when children are covered for insurance, they have much better outcomes,” Li pointed out. “They’re more likely to succeed in school, graduate from high school, attend college, earn higher wages and things like that. So, that’s all very good data to see.”
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The Florida Policy Institute, along with 40 other organizations, has asked the DeSantis administration for a statewide plan for how to keep those families and individuals insured after the federal protections expire next year. Florida is among 11 states that have yet to expand Medicaid, which insures many low-income residents.
Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, said the federal protections — part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act — are expected to lapse when the public health emergency officially ends next spring. And she predicted the national child uninsured rate could double.
“Three out of every four children that may lose Medicaid coverage will still be eligible,” Alker pointed out. “Sometimes children lose coverage at Medicaid renewal, just because the letter gets lost in the mail. Families with limited English proficiency may have more trouble getting through the renewal process successfully.”
Florida’s rate of uninsured children is among the highest in the nation, coming in at 42nd out of 50 states and Washington, D.C.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also recommends states create a plan for when federal protections end, because it predicts states could take up to 12 months to return to pre-pandemic operations for Medicaid renewals.