U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor is asking federal health administrators to investigate Florida’s “outrageous and miserable history” of denying adequate healthcare to impoverished and disabled children, saying the state has deliberately ignored a judge’s ruling that Florida’s insurer for the needy is systematically violating federal law.
In a letter Thursday, Castor called upon Sylvia Burwell, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to “exercise [her] oversight and enforcement authority to ensure Florida children receive the care required under the law.”
By sending the missive, Castor, a Tampa Democrat, is wading into a dispute between state health administrators and doctors for impoverished children that simmered for a decade before reaching a boiling point last year. On the last day of December 2014, U.S. Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan declared Florida's healthcare system for needy and disabled children to be in violation of several federal laws. Jordan’s ruling was a milestone in a lawsuit by pediatricians and several families that had been filed 10 years earlier.
Florida’s spending for the healthcare of children in Medicaid, the state’s insurer for the needy, is so inadequate, Jordan wrote in a 153-page ruling, that most pediatricians and specialists have been driven from the program. As a consequence, the judge wrote, poor and disabled children often endure long waits for an appointment, or travel hours to a population center to see a doctor.