CRESTVIEW — Sacred Heart Children's Hospital is spreading the word about Florida KidCare health insurance, a federally funded health insurance option for children under age 19.
"We are working on behalf of the state, trying to get children enrolled," Nora Bailey, a consultant for Sacred Heart Children's Hospital, said, adding that many residents may be unaware of the program.
"Florida has traditionally had a very low percentage of eligible people who are enrolled," Bailey said.
Florida KidCare provides lower rates than most insurance companies and employer health plans, Bailey said. Uninsured children under age 19 who are U.S. citizens or qualified non-citizens are eligible for the program. Other restrictions, including income requirements, apply.
Following a recent federal grant, Sacred Heart Children's Hospital has hired four community health workers to help families apply for Florida KidCare insurance. Their coverage area includes Okaloosa, Escambia, Santa Rosa and Walton counties.
"My role is go out into the community and spread the word," Dione Wilson, one such health worker, said.
Wilson, a married father of two girls, became involved with the program after discovering how beneficial Florida KidCare insurance would be to his family.
He earned $55,000 annually and was covered along with his wife by an employer's health insurance policy. But the household's finances became less manageable after he added Jessica, his youngest daughter, to the plan.
"It went to ($)400 every two weeks, so that was ($)800 every month," Wilson said. "I couldn't afford that; it was like a house payment."
Wilson reached out to Medicaid, but learned his household income was too high to qualify. Medicaid, a state and federally funded program, provides medical coverage to low-income individuals and families. The Social Security Administration or the Department of Children and Families determines eligibility.
Wilson soon learned about Florida KidCare, which he said covered Jessica's health care at a reasonable cost.
For instance, $140 per month might cover a child; rates vary based on the household income, he said.
The plans — which allow families to choose their children's physicians — cover doctor and hospital visits and medical procedures. In addition, they cover prescriptions, vision, hearing and dental care, according to the Florida KidCare website.
Enrollment is easy, Wilson said.
"The good thing is we're here to actually assist them throughout the entire enrollment process. We refer them to different organizations if they need help," he said.
On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Wilson works from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. out of an office inside Mt. Zion AME Church, 502 McDonald St. Appointments can also be made.
Thomas Boni contributed to this report.