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Here’s the deal. The federal government provides our state Medicaid dollars for basic medical and dental care for low income kids. The state is required to match the dollars and as a condition of receiving them must provide a certain level of access and care to poor children who qualify. The Republican legislature and Florida's Health Care Agency (AHCA), however, have refused to properly fund the program and adequately reimburse pediatricians and dentists for care, and have also created artificial barriers in order to limit enrollment and use by eligible children. The result is that 390,000 poor and disabled children in our state do not get recommended medical check-ups, and 750,000 get no dental care. That means that these children only get basic health care if they become so sick that they qualify for admission to an emergency room.
After years of trying to improve the system in collaborative fashion, as a last resort Florida pediatricians and pediatric dentists filed a law suit in 2005, trying to motivate the state to give children the care they are entitled to by federal law. The state failed in its attempts to dismiss the case, and then refused to work out a compromise. So now, instead of helping poor children receive fair access to quality health care, the AG and AHCA Secretary Holly Benson are fighting to block access to care for children, and are doing so at incredible cost to taxpayers. For the next few months General McCollum and his lawyers will trek into court day after day to battle against Florida’s poorest and sickest children. How shameful!
It could be different. If he wanted to, our Attorney General could concede that it is morally repugnant that Florida has the second worst rate of uninsured children in the nation. He could enter into a consent decree that admits Florida is indecent to purposefully and inhumanly leave its poorest children without basic health care. Yes, he would upset the Republican legislature but that would truly be a fight worth waging. But rather than take on the Legislature on behalf of poor and disabled children, General McCollum is leading the charge to defend the indefensible.
If you sense outrage you would be right. An Attorney General is supposed to fight for our most vulnerable citizens, not sue them. He is expected to stand up for poor, sick kids and not attack them.
Shame on Bill McCollum.
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