With the tax-cutting governor inaugurated for a second term Tuesday, and “sunny” economic forecasts issued for Florida’s new year, one could almost overlook some very bad news that arrived at the end of 2014:
A federal judge ruled that Florida underfunded Medicaid — so much so that the state essentially violated federal law and thwarted adequate medical and dental care for children.
According to Judge Adalberto Jordan, the state set Medicaid payments too low, making it impossible to attract enough doctors, mental health therapists, dentists and others to serve eligible children. Jordan also agreed with plaintiffs’ claims that administrative missteps and poor communication by state agencies put serious hurdles in the way of medical and dental care for some children.
Medicaid’s clients include low-income children, the disabled, and those with special needs.
Judge Jordan’s ruling, following 10 years of litigation in a class-action lawsuit, is a sobering read. Here are some examples from the decision:
• “… There is a serious problem faced by Medicaid children in receiving prompt and equal access to medical specialists. … Children on Medicaid have to travel to other areas of the state and/or wait for several months to obtain care.”
• “One-third of the state’s (Medicaid-)enrolled children are not receiving any of their expected preventive care each year.” Plus, “79 percent of the children enrolled in Medicaid are getting no dental services at all,” although they are entitled to them.