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Records Shielded In Healthy Kids Dental Dispute

Child receiving a mouth exam
Dave Buchwald
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Pointing to trade secrets, an appeals court Wednesday shielded from release some information that a managed-care company provided to the Florida Healthy Kids Corp. in seeking a contract for dental services. 

The decision by a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal was a victory for Managed Care of North America, Inc., or MCNA, which manages dental benefits for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program in Florida and other states.

Florida Healthy Kids Corp. in late 2015 began soliciting proposals from dental managed-care companies.

MCNA submitted information and was awarded a contract, but a losing bidder, Delta Dental Insurance Co., filed a public-records request for spreadsheets and other documents provided by MCNA.

MCNA went to court to block disclosure of the documents, contending they were trade secrets. Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled against MCNA, but the appeals court overturned parts of that decision.

Wednesday’s ruling said, in part, that MCNA spreadsheets about “prospective providers” for its network were trade secrets.

The ruling, written by appeals-court Judge M. Kemmerly Thomas and joined by judges Ross Bilbrey and Harvey Jay, said Florida Healthy Kids “prefers to award contracts to a company that has not only built an impressive provider network, but is also actively working to expand and grow its provider network by targeting new prospective providers. Thus, the non-public information is important to winning the contract; and, failing to protect the confidentiality of this information would reveal MCNA’s regional marketing and contracting strategies to its competitors, thereby, destroying the business advantage this information gives MCNA.”

The ruling also shielded from release “geoaccess” maps that MCNA used to show Florida Healthy Kids where health-plan members were concentrated in relation to providers. The ruling, however, allowed the release of other information that the appeals court said was available online or through phone calls to MCNA.