TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida is making progress in reducing the number of children who don't have health insurance.
The latest data show the number of uninsured children has dropped from 700,000 to 500,000. That means the percentage of uninsured kids in Florida has declined from about 17 percent to 13 percent.
Now, Florida is launching a campaign to help more families get health insurance for their children through the subsidized KidCare program.
Some children joined the announcement on Thursday at an elementary school and held umbrellas over their heads as part of the "Kids Oughta Be Covered" campaign. The campaign urges parents to see if they are eligible for KidCare insurance because children who get preventive health care can stay healthier and perform better in school.
Jackay Edwards says she could not afford private health insurance for her 16-year-old son, so she's grateful to have coverage through KidCare.
"It's been a blessing to our family. It's affordable. I would tell anybody that doesn't have insurance to try Florida Healthy Kids because it has really helped us."
KidCare offers health insurance to more than two million children in Florida. They receive comprehensive health care, including doctor and hospital visits, immunizations, prescriptions and dental care.
Melanie Harley is a teacher who has two sons with special needs enrolled in KidCare.
"If my children were not a part of this program, I don't believe I would otherwise be able to afford all of their special services. My children have to go to speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, counseling so this program has been such a blessing and such a benefit for them."
Rich Robleto, the program's executive director, says much of the growth in KidCare has come from families hit hard by the economic downturn. They end up in the state's Medicaid program, which provides free health care.
He says of the two million children enrolled in KidCare, 1.7 million are covered by Medicaid.
The other three health care programs in KidCare are subsidized. Premiums are based on a family's income and size. Most families pay $15 - $20 a month.
Robleto says he does not expect KidCare coverage to be affected if Gov. Rick Scott decides Florida should not participate in the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
"If Florida does not participate in the Medicaid expansion, we believe that the children would still be eligible for Medicaid up to 133 percent of the poverty level," said Robleto. "The state opting out of the Medicaid would have limited effect on the continued growth of KidCare."
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who helps oversee the Florida Healthy Kids Corporation, says the state has made a lot of progress in reducing the number of uninsured children, but there is still much work to be done.
He's encouraging parents to check out their options for KidCare coverage.
"Don't believe it's not possible for your child and your family to have access to preventive care and full health care. It is here in Florida. Contact us. Let us take that anxiety and that worry off of you so that you can focus on the full potential of your child."
You can find more information about KidCare health insurance at www.floridakidcare.org.