Lawsuit Alleges Florida Medicaid Provides Insufficient Care for Children
The Florida Pediatric Society, the Florida Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the families of six children enrolled in Medicaid filed a lawsuit on Monday in Miami federal court alleging that Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and three state health care agencies are violating federal law by failing to provide the same level of medical care for children in Medicaid that is available to children with private insurance, the Miami Herald reports (Klas, Miami Herald, 11/22). The lawsuit names the heads of the state Agency for Health Care Administration, the Department of Children & Family Services and the Department of Health as defendants (Hollis, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 11/22).
Citing state data, the suit alleges that "more than 500,000 Medicaid enrolled Florida children were furnished no preventive health care services at all" in fiscal year 2003-2004. From 1999 to 2004, at least 44% of children enrolled in Medicaid "failed to receive even one of the health checkups that they were entitled to under federal law," and more than 75% received no dental care, the suit charges.
According to the suit, the state also:
- Does not inform families of available health care services they are entitled to under Medicaid;
- Directs families to HMOs that are too full to accept additional beneficiaries; and
- Does not pay physicians and dentist at rates that cover their expenses.
The plaintiffs have asked the judge to expand the suit to a class action (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 11/22).
Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Alan Levine, named in the suit as a defendant, said there are problems with the state Medicaid system but that a proposal by Bush would reform the system (Miami Herald, 11/22).
Bush aides said there "has been a sustained increase in the percentage of children" receiving preventive care since Bush took office.
Luis St. Petery, executive vice president of the Florida Pediatric Society, said, "We are filing this action because Florida Medicaid isn't meeting its obligation" (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 11/22). He said Bush's proposal would worsen problems alleged in the suit. "Medicaid reform is supposed to be budget neutral: either fewer services are going to be rendered or physicians are going to be paid less," he said, adding, "I don't see the logic in that" (Miami Herald, 11/22).