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KidCare panel gives advice

Among its recommendations are automatic payroll deductions for covering health care.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published July 31, 2007


TALLAHASSEE - Some parents should be able to pay for state-subsidized health insurance for their children through automatic paycheck deduction, a panel said Monday as part of a series of recommendations on how to boost enrollment in KidCare.

The advisory panel, appointed by Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, will make several proposals to the board of the Healthy Kids Corp., which oversees the KidCare program.

Many parents and advocates say the jumble of programs collectively known as KidCare - but also called by several other names - that provide subsidized health insurance for children is confusing and difficult to navigate. Moreover, several advocates say that the transition from one children's health program to another - often required if the family's income changes or as the child gets older - isn't easy and often families simply lose coverage.

Lawmakers tried to streamline the system earlier this year, but couldn't agree on how to do it - partly because of squabbling between state agencies. Now, several different agencies all have pieces of the KidCare program, and advocates say that's part of the problem.

Putting it all together under one roof would help, many officials and advocates agree, but that would take legislation. In the meantime, there are things that can be done without a change in law, and the ad hoc committee that made its recommendations Monday is looking at those things.

Most of the proposed changes are relatively technical. For example, the committee suggests changing when parents enrolling children should begin to pay premiums. The panel also is suggesting that large employers should be asked to allow automatic payroll deductions for KidCare, which makes it far less likely that a child will lose coverage for nonpayment of premiums. The largest three of those employers - Wal-Mart, Publix and the Miami-Dade County school system - employ nearly half of the workers who would fall into the group.