ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Health care costs for thousands of Florida kids are about to double. Families on the Florida Healthy Kids Corporation full-pay program have until September 30 to look for a new, less expensive option. Florida Healthy Kids partners with the state of Florida to offer affordable health insurance to about 35,000 children whose families don’t qualify for state or federal aid.
In a letter that was sent to families in August, CEO Rebecca Matthews explained that in order to comply with the Affordable Care Act Florida Healthy Kids was forced to choose between eliminating the full-pay plan altogether or continue offering coverage at a significantly higher rate. Jodi Ray is the director of Florida Covering Kids and Families, an independent organization that helps parents find health care coverage.
"There was a time before the Affordable Care Act took place that folks were finding themselves buying really bad health insurance plans," Ray said.
Combine the new minimum coverage requirements with the fact that costs are split between a relatively small number of Healthy Kids customers and you get the cost increase, Ray said. The silver lining, according to Ray, is this: "People are going to be buying something that really provides true access to health care."
"As of October 1, our insurance rates for both of our children -- for just our children -- will be $456 a month…at this point it's about $300 a month,” said John Pagnotti of Orlando. Costs are going up for children over the age of 5. Pagnotti and his wife have a 7-year-old and a 5-year-old. He said they have chosen to stick with Florida Healthy Kids because it is still the most affordable option for them.
Families might have other options, said Anne Packham, the lead health care navigator for Primary Care Access Network, or PCAN. Packham said PCAN can help central Florida families explore whether or not a plan purchased through their employer or the federal health insurance exchange is more affordable than continuing with Florida Healthy Kids. "They may not have considered the marketplace because maybe they've been on this plan for a long time and they didn't think about whether or they were eligible for the federal marketplace," Packham said.
Florida Health Kids rates go out up on October 1. Packham said that if parents want to choose a new provider they need to do so by September 30 in order to avoid a gap in coverage. The federal insurance exchange is open early for Florida Healthy Kids customers.