I know what you’re thinking: wow, another headline with the word, “Florida,” in it. This must be horrible, yet also dumb and hilarious. Usually, this is the case and as a Floridian myself, I have experienced my fair share of weird news that comes out of my state. For right now, though, I want you to forget all of the bias that you associate with Florida. This is not your average Floridian news story; it is more serious and dangerous.
Last Friday, CNN reported that the Florida Department of Health has been using corrupt actions and political motives to remove about 13,000 ill kids from the state’s Children’s Medical Services program. This has led to several Florida pediatricians becoming angry and worried for the fate of these children who are not receiving proper or any medical care. Most of these children are now on insurance programs that are not accepted by the doctors they need to see.
“These are the sickest and most vulnerable kids, and (changing their insurance) can mean life or death for them,” said Joan Alker, executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University, told CNN. “This is really very troubling.”
This started back in 2015, so these kids have been off this program for over two years. CNN goes into detail about the faulty facts behind the switch. According to the researcher who wrote the software used in the analysis, they said that data used to defend the switch is “bizarre” and “inaccurate.” Also, the screening toll used to decide which kids would be kicked off the program was extremely invalid and called a “perversion of science,” which also let to a state administrative law judge ruling to stop using the screening tool because it was unlawful. Yet, after the ruling, they did not re-enroll these kids or reach out to parents to let them know this was an option.
Lastly, many parents and doctors believe that the real reason this switch was made was to donate the money to the Republican Party of Florida. According to an analysis done for CNN by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, the companies, who own the nine insurance plans, donated roughly $8.6 million to Florida Republican Party committees from 2010 to 2014. While many insurance companies do donate some money to political organizations, it is the large sum of money that is unethical and troubling. Even for a huge state like Florida, it is a large sum of money. This is money that could have easily continued to help these children survive and live a better life.
“This was a way for the politicians to repay the entities that had contributed to their political campaigns and their political success, and it’s the children who suffered,” said Dr. Louis St. Petery, former executive vice president of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Since this report, the Florida Department of Health has been vocal about how these allegations are completely false. They claimed that CNN used misleading and outdated information to inaccurately critique the program. They also said that the claim that politics played any role “is 100 percent false.” They finally state that the screening tools that CNN mentions are no longer in use.
“CNN’s reporting demonstrates a misunderstanding of Florida’s Medicaid system, the health insurance industry and the ethical standards of the State of Florida,” the DoH statement said.
However, the DoH has not made a respond that actually supports their actions back in 2015. As FloridaPolitics reports, the department’s response “largely defends what has happened since 2015, not responding much to what happened in 2015.” They do not address the actual problem at stake; that 13,000 kids are without proper medical care.
CNN uses actual professionals both in and out of Florida, focusing on doctors, college professors and pediatricians. They also have the support of patients that are suffering from the choices of the Florida DoH. They use experts and researches throughout the report to talk about flawed the system is and they use Dr. Louis St. Petery, the former executive vice president of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, who believes that the children were switched to the private Medicaid insurers to leave for money for Republican contributors.
Since this report and the DoH response has come out, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King has called for an independent investigation of this report.
“I’m calling for an independent investigation into the Florida Department of Health and the administrative actions that led to this systematic decision to rip CMS health coverage away from more than 13,000 sick children and what influenced this decision,” King said in a news release issued by his campaign.
Hopefully this new investigation can lead to these children receiving the proper medical care they need. Whether CNN is cracking the cold, hard truth or the Florida Department of Health is innocent, the bottom line is that these children are real victims and they deserve to know the truth. CNN showcases multiple affected children who are struggling and have been since 2015.
It is time they receive the care and truth that had been ripped from them two years ago.