***UPDATED: July 21, 2016*** A recent report, released by the nonprofit Urban Institute, claims that a Medicaid expansion in 2017 would help reduce the number of uninsured Florida residents by about 877,000 people. Benefits of expansion are said to include lowing the growing risk of Zika infection among pregnant women across the state. A second report, from Center for American Progress, showed that the greatest risk of the disease, which is known to cause birth defects, is to expectant mothers in Southern states that did not expand Medicaid coverage. But opponent of expansion say the costs of covering more people are typically higher than expected, leading to a reduction in other priorities, like education and transportation. Medicaid expansion is a contentious issue in Florida, which is one of the 19 states that has refused to accept the offer from the administration to pay for the coverage under the health care law, the Affordable Care Act. Earlier this year, a decade-long legal battle against the state’s Medicaid program was finally brought to an end, resulting in improved access to dental and health care for Florida’s children participating in the insurance program.
After a decade-long battle, the Florida Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics have announced that a settlement with Florida’s Medicaid program has finally been reached. According to a recent article from the American Dental Association (ADA), the class-action lawsuit was filed in 2005, accusing Florida’s Medicaid program, the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care program, of not paying physicians enough when treating the 1.9 million children who were supposed to be supported by the government’s health coverage. The goal of the suit was to improve access to quality dental and medical care for the children of Florida.
The Philadelphia firm representing the Florida Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, parents of the children previously denied care, and the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Public Interest Law Center, recently released a statement regarding the case. It stated that the settlement requires Florida Medicaid and other state agencies to make “substantial improvements in the access of children on Medicaid to medical and dental care throughout the state.”
Improvements promised by Florida Medicaid include:
- Increasing the percentage of children receiving preventive medical care to match the national norms by 2019
- Working collaboratively with FCAAP and FAPD on an ongoing basis
- Increasing the percentage of children receiving preventive dental care and treatment by 2021
“The Academy is pleased that the mediated settlement of the lawsuit will create an opportunity for improved access for the children at highest risk for dental disease and that hope for these improvements will not be delayed any further,” said FAPD president, Dr. Eric Berry.
The settlement also requires the state agencies to pay for legal fees and expenses to the health providers and parents who brought the lawsuit, totally $12 million.