In an important win for Florida’s most vulnerable children – and the doctors and advocates who serve them, a U.S. federal judge this week ruled that the state’s healthcare system for those children violates various federal laws. The move follows a decade-long battle by pediatricians who care for those kids, but have done so at fees sufficient to ensure adequate care.
In his ruling, US Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan pediatricians and various specialists were subject to a Medicaid budget set by the state at an artificially low level. As a result, many of those doctors elected not to participate in the insurance program that serves the needy. Kids were receiving sub-par medical and dental care, or none at all, especially when families were forced to drive long distances to find doctors still participating in the state program.
“This is a great day for the children in this state,” Dr. Louis B. St. Petery, a Tallahassee pediatrician and executive vice president of the Florida Pediatric Society, told the Miami Herald. Dr. Petery helped spearhead the suit.
“This action was taken because we found that children weren’t being treated properly if they were on Medicaid. Our position as pediatricians,” the paper continued quoting Dr. Petery, “is that children do not choose their parents. They don’t have a choice to be born into a rich family or a poor family.”
State agencies named in the suit commented that the the program that the judge ruled on no longer exists.
Regardless, the judge in his ruling highlights the discrepancy in state payment for care for its various populations, including the elderly and at-risk children. Though the state may have changed its plan, it is hoped it will continue to live up to the intention of the programs designed to help our most vulnerable children and ensure they get the care they need to thrive.