A federal judge Wednesday declared Florida’s health care system for needy and disabled children to be in violation of several federal laws, handing a stunning victory to doctors and children’s advocates who have fought for almost a decade to force the state to pay pediatricians enough money to ensure impoverished children can receive adequate care.
In his 153-page ruling, U.S. Judge Adalberto Jordan said lawmakers had for years set the state’s Medicaid budget at an artificially low level, causing pediatricians and other specialists for children to opt out of the insurance program for the needy. In some areas of the state, parents had to travel long distances to see specialists.
The low spending plans, which forced Medicaid providers for needy children to be paid far below what private insurers would spend — and well below what doctors were paid in the Medicare program for a more powerful group, elders — amounted to rationing of care, the order said.
• Thousands of children are “terminated” — or kicked out of — the Medicaid program each year, sometimes because of nothing more than bureaucratic error. For every budget year from 2003 to 2007, at least 25,000 youngsters younger than age 5 were removed from the Medicaid rolls before they had received a year of insurance. One study found that close to 30 percent of terminations or coverage denials for both children and adults were “erroneous.”
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