By Andrew Behrman
President & CEO
Florida Association of Community Health Centers
Floridians recently were surprised to learn that last year the number of children uninsured in our state increased for the first time since tracking began a decade ago. According to a recent report released by Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families, the share of Florida children without insurance coverage rose from 6.6 percent to 7.3 percent.
A family’s income or ability to pay for coverage should never be a roadblock preventing parents from keeping their children healthy. Florida’s Community Health Centers are committed to meeting our state’s health care needs by providing community-focused care to even the youngest of patients. With affordable services for all ages, Community Health Centers are truly a lifeline for medically underserved communities.
Florida had 325,000 children without insurance last year. Even though a majority of uninsured children are eligible for state government-funded programs, enrollment has actually declined. Children younger than 6 are at the highest risk for health concerns.
Serving as president and CEO of the Florida Association of Community Health Centers has allowed me to see first-hand just how integral Community Health Centers are in protecting Florida’s children. Throughout the year, our centers across the state provide primary care through school health programs and provide immunizations to more than 265,000 children each year. Providing basic health services in schools is critical, since it may be one of the few times many Florida children receive care from a health professional.
Across Florida, various programs are experiencing a decrease in the number of children enrolled in different insurance coverage plans. By offering more affordable insurance options, Community Health Centers – which are committed to meeting people where they are – work to fill the gap and serve the needs of low-income Floridians and their children.
From birth to age 18, Florida children are eligible for comprehensive coverage through state-sponsored health insurance programs. These programs offer free, subsidized, or full-pay insurance options at each stage of the child’s growth and development.
It’s important that all families understand that their children have a viable path to coverage, no matter their income or ability to pay. Most Community Health Centers across the state have Certified Application Counselors who can assist with the health insurance coverage application process, and all our facilities charge patients using a sliding fee scale based on family size and income. Community Health Centers are here to serve Floridians and their children, no matter their ability to pay.
At the end of the day, there is no excuse for any child to go uninsured. Especially now, with the number of uninsured kids on the rise, it’s comforting to know that Florida’s Community Health Centers are here to meet their needs.
Andrew Behrman is president and CEO of the Florida Association of Community Health Centers.