TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – A bill aiming to expand access to health care coverage for Florida children may not be passed in time.

With a third of the annual regular legislative session already gone, the bill has passed just one committee, the News Service of Florida reports.

The proposal (HB 689) by Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, would bridge the gap between when a child loses other health care coverage – such as when a parent loses a job or otherwise can’t pay for private health coverage– and when the child is enrolled in Florida KidCare, the low-cost federal-state children’s health insurance program.

Harrell’s bill would allow children to keep receiving medical treatment until a final eligibility decision is made, usually within 45 days.

“Most of them do end up getting the coverage in the long run,” said Rich Robleto, executive director of the Florida Healthy Kids Corporation, which includes KidCare. “This would just expedite it…It’s the kind of administrative simplification that KidCare is always looking for.”

Currently there’s no provision in state law to deem a child presumptively eligible while the application is considered. But if a family already qualifies for a program such as food stamps, the Women Infants and Children (WIC) program or Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), the children would be presumed eligible for KidCare.

“This is a very important step to reaching more children – and often the most vulnerable children,” said former lawmaker Sam Bell, a lobbyist for children’s health services.

The Healthy Families Committee, which Harrell chairs, approved the bill unanimously on March 11. It faces two more committees. A Senate companion (SB 548) by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, has three committee references, but has yet to be heard.

The sticking point seems to be the bill’s fiscal impact, which House appropriations analysts put at $14.3 million for Fiscal Year 2013-2014.

Read more in the News Service of Florida article.

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