It’s getting better, but it’s still not great. However, we’ve come to expect a lot less than perfection when it comes to helping the state’s most vulnerable residents.
The Florida Department of Health has taken a small step back from its overreaching policy shift, which jettisoned 9,000 children with complex medical conditions from its Children’s Medical Services program, CMS. They were denied healthcare that help them live with some sense of normalcy. That gave their parents some peace of mind that they were not alone. Some children, many profiled by Miami Herald reporter Carol Marbin Miller this month, have deteriorating eyesight, or autism, or any number of severe disabilities. They are “medically fragile,” as state Surgeon General John Armstrong said.
However, they were not fragile enough, it seems, to pass muster to continue receiving vital healthcare that had become their lifeline. Instead, the health department introduced a new screening tool designed, it said, as part of a “reorganization.” It was also an effective way to prune the rolls, saving the state money while inflicting even more hardship on children’s already burdened families.
As reported recently by the News Service of Florida, the Department of Health will restart screening and enrolling children into CMS. A revised eligibility screening process, which went into effect in May, led to those 9,000 children being dumped from the rolls. The process included a five-question survey that parents said were confounding and, possibly led them to inadvertently claim their kids didn’t need care. In September, an administrative judge ruled that the department had put the cart before the horse, installing the new screening tool without going through the rule-making process, which could have made implementation less confusing and, possibly, less onerous from the outset.
Last week, the Department of Health filed new rules for the eligibility screening, modifying the process somewhat for the better. The tricky five-question survey will be retained. However, there will be the addition of an “attestation form.” With this, doctors will affirm a child’s diagnosis, and there will be a list of diagnoses that qualify children for the CMS program.
It’s incredible that doctors’ input not only wasn’t required, it wasn’t allowed. But, in recent years, the state has rarely let factual evidence get in the way of a bad idea.
The health department says that it will review the screening survey in three months. That’s just what it should do, with the guidance of independent experts who care only about getting it right for the kids who need healthcare the most.