Nelson, Castor demand answers on Florida's mishandling of sick children

A mother is fighting the decision, which will cost her $500 a month to care for her ailing daughter.

Tampa, FL- In 2015, more than 13,000 special needs children were removed from the state's specialized care program.

Now, state leaders want answers.

Children's Medical Service helps kids with special needs whose families don't have the funds to pay for their treatment and medications.

Here’s what happened, two years ago the state of Florida started using a new screening tool, which determined what children were eligible for the program.

Senator Bill Nelson and U.S. Representative Kathy Castor wrote a letter to Tom Price, Secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, saying that screening tool was “improperly re-evaluating” the children.


The state screened more than 60,000 children.

Florida's courts ruled that the state improperly used a new screening tool to declare those kids ineligible, meaning those families could re-enroll in the program.

However, it took two years for the state to send out letters to the families to notify them. Another issue, they only told about 6,000 of the more than 13,000 affected.

“They've dragged their feet,” says Senator Castor.

The two lawmakers are calling on HHS to launch an investigation as to why it took the state so long.

We spoke with a mom of a child, who suffers from severe asthma. She wasn’t one of the families kicked out of the CMS program, but she has faced struggles with it.

“I think it's unfair, unacceptable and it's despicable,” says Mother Zakeia Smith.

Smith had strong words to describe the states Children's Medical Services program.

Her daughter she sees multiple doctors and takes a myriad of medications. When her Husband received a promotion at work, they were cut off.

“I think it’s unfair to think 'Oh, you're doing better now you don't need this service anymore,' but like we get up, we go to work and work hard but these services help us,” she says.

The Smith family paid $100 a month for CMS. The promotion was $180 a month, Medicaid said they now made too much.

This is what they're facing, $600 out of pocket for just their daughters Medicine. That’s a month.

Not to mention their now in debt for hospital fees, that’s when they couldn't afford to buy the Medicine and their daughter got sick.

“It's our job to provide for them so why would you stop us from providing the best quality care,” she says. “There is no reason a parent should have to choose from putting gas in the car or getting their kids Medications for the child to survive, it's just wrong.

CNN did an investigation into this issue.

They reported children were put into one of 11 traditional Medicaid managed care plans not meant to care for their needs.

The network says nine of those private insurers donated more than $8 million to Florida Republican Party committees.

Senator Nelson said he's not commenting but did say he voted against Tom Price being Secretary of Health and Human Services.

He says "he wasn't qualified nor would he look out for the poor." 

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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