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Agency seeks $2.7 million to fight court ruling that says state deprives needy kids

AHCA budgetGov. Rick Scott’s health care agency is asking for up to $2.7 million in additional funds to hire private lawyers to fight a judge’s ruling that the state has systematically deprived children on Medicaid of needed health and dental care.

U.S. Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan ruled last week that Florida’s healthcare system for needy and disabled children was in violation of several federal laws because the state has chronically underfunded the state’s Medicaid program and improperly dropped children from the program.

A 2015 budget request from the Agency for Health Care Administration states that because Jordan plans a second trial to determine what the state must do to remedy its treatment of impoverished children, the state must hire lawyers to assist the attorney general in fighting to inject more money into the troubled system.

The low-reimbursement rates discouraged pediatricians and other specialists from taking needy children as clients, the judge concluded, essentially leading to a rationing of care.

Justin Senior, the state Medicaid director at the Agency for Health Care Administration, told the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday that the state disagrees with the ruling, which came nearly a decade after a group of pediatricians first filed the 2005 lawsuit , and considers it moot.

Senior said Jordan’s ruling was an outdated because Florida has transformed Medicaid to a managed care-based program that provides incentives for quality care and accessible services.

“Everything around the program has changed,’’ Senior said. “Whether you agree with what the judge said or not, the ruling that came out involved a program that doesn’t exist anymore.” Story here.