Castor Asks Feds to Keep an Eye on Medicaid Kids Case

From News Service of Florida

STATE CAPITAL BRIEFS (EVENING EDITION): THURSDAY, JANUARY 8, 2015
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

With state officials disputing a federal judge's findings that Florida has not properly provided health care to low-income children, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., jumped into the frayThursday. "Judge (Adalberto) Jordan's findings of fact and conclusions of law reveal an outrageous and miserable history by the state of Florida of inadequately caring for children and meeting its legal responsibilities," Castor wrote to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell. "I urge HHS to closely monitor and work with Florida pediatricians, dentists and advocates to hold Florida officials' feet to the fire as Judge Jordan proceeds to the remedy phase in the federal court case." After nearly a decade of litigation, Jordan last week issued a 153-page decision that pointed to wide-ranging problems in how the Medicaid program has served children. In part, he found that low physician reimbursement rates led to a lack of access to care and that children had been improperly dropped from the program. "Even 'well baby' visits for newborn infants have been restricted by the state," Castor wrote. "Judge Jordan found that although the state has responsibility to ensure that children enrolled in Medicaid receive dental care, 79 percent of the children enrolled are getting no dental services at all." But Florida Agency for Health Care Administration officialsWednesday told the state Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee that Medicaid has been overhauled since the court case was filed in 2005. "Everything around the program has changed,'' Medicaid director Justin Senior said. "(Jordan) is critiquing a situation on the ground that no longer exists, and that's unfortunate." The judge, who serves on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals but heard much of the case while a district judge in Miami, will hold a hearing in late January to prepare for the remedy phase of the case. The state is expected to argue that the case is effectively moot because of the overhaul, which has led to almost all Medicaid beneficiaries enrolling in HMOs or other types of managed-care plans. But in the letter Thursday, Castor wrote that "serious problems" still exist. "Why the state wants to squander millions of taxpayer dollars to fight the ruling rather than address the shortcomings and provide the essential health services to children?" the Tampa Democrat wrote to Burwell. "I don't know."