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Judge Gives Preliminary Approval To Medicaid Kids Settlement

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
A federal judge has preliminarily approved the settlement of a lawsuit over Florida's Medicaid program and its care for children.

A federal judge has preliminarily approved the settlement of a decade-long lawsuit focused on allegations that Florida's Medicaid program did not provide adequate care to children.

Judge Adalberto Jordan issued an order last week granting preliminary approval to the settlement agreement and also set a June 28 hearing in Miami to consider final approval.

The state and groups representing pediatricians and dentists announced in April they had reached the settlement, which includes steps aimed at increasing payments to doctors, improving dental care for children and trying to make sure children get enrolled in Medicaid and receive services with minimal disruption.

Critics of Florida's Medicaid program have long argued that low reimbursement rates dissuaded doctors and dentists from treating children and other patients in the program.

In a document filed April 15 requesting preliminary approval of the agreement, plaintiffs' attorneys said the settlement came after 11 court-supervised negotiating sessions that started in December and continued for three months. The lawsuit was filed in 2005 and has included as defendants the state Agency for Health Care Administration, the Florida Department of Children and Families and the Florida Department of Health.

"The settlement agreement requires AHCA to improve children's access to Medicaid services,'' said the document filed by the plaintiffs' attorneys. "It does so by establishing clear, objective benchmarks that defendants must meet and also by specifying particular corrective steps that AHCA and DOH (the Department of Health) must take if they fail to attain those benchmarks by predetermined dates. In addition, the settlement agreement transforms the parties' adversarial litigation posture into a collaborative relationship by requiring frequent meetings between defendants and plaintiffs' representatives, including the leadership of the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Florida Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, to implement the settlement agreement."