The phone calls for appointments and inquiries are coming in now that a five-year wait has ended for immigrant children in Florida to be eligible for state health insurance.
Since the start of this month, every child can be enrolled in Medicaid or other state health insurance.
The state Legislature eliminated the five-year wait for lawful immigrant children, according to the Health Planning Council of Southwest Florida.
Such children also are eligible for a subsidy, based on family income, through Florida Healthy Kids between ages 5 and 19, said Lynne Thorp, project director with the Health Planning Council.
“Every child in the state who is lawful should now have the opportunity to have health care,” she said.
Gov. Rick Scott in March signed the law that lifted the five-year wait, which made Florida the 31st state to enact a provision of federal law known as the Legal Immigrant Children’s Health Improvement Act.
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli vowed this past spring that the bill to eliminate the wait period would pass this year.
“Our country is a place where, if you are legal citizen or resident, you should have the same opportunities as everyone else,” Crisafulli said after the House unanimously voted in favor of House Bill 89.
“These children are here legally and should be able to access the same services as any other Florida family.”
An estimated 435 children in Collier County and 792 in Lee were denied coverage in 2014 because they had not met the five-year threshold, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families.
One of the reasons the law passed in Florida was an estimate of cost savings for the state if children have access to regular medical care and stay healthier, Thorp said.
An estimated 17,000 legal immigrant children are eligible for coverage, according to The Children’s Trust, an advocacy organization in Miami-Dade County.
By having these children insured, there will be a decline in state costs to provide emergency Medicaid services to them, according to Florida CHAIN, a consumer advocacy group.
The maximum cost to the state is $553,000, Florida CHAIN said. Moreover, the state will draw down about $31 million in federal matching aid.