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Florida Health Department Moves Ahead With New Screening Tool For Sick Kids

Florida Department of Health

The Florida Department of Health is floating a “compromise” on how it determines eligibility for the Children’s Medical Services Program. CMS is designed for low-income kids with chronic and serious medical conditions.

In September an administrative law judge ordered the Florida Department of Health to stop using a five-question parent survey to determine whether children are eligible for the state-based health program. Critics say the survey was confusing and inappropriate.  In October News Service of Florida reported the tool resulted in 9,000 sick and disabled kids getting dropped from the program. Now DOH Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Tschetter says enrollment and screenings could re-start at the first of the year if there are no legal challenges:

“Much of that depends on our ability to find common ground and the ability for interested parties to trust the department to reopen the rule in three months to make sure we got it right," she said.

Part of the “compromise” creates two-ways for a child to be deemed eligible. One is a physician-based, automatic-enrollment process where doctors can provide input, the other is a return to the parent-survey.

Tuesday pediatric cardiologist Dr. Louis St. Petery said he wouldn’t oppose changes to the program made in response to the lawsuit.

“I’m delighted to move forward with readmitting kids to CMS and I’m also delighted that you specifically mentioned a re-opening of this rule in three months," he said.

But issues remain. The healthcare advocacy group Florida Chain is questioning continued use of the parent survey and others would like the state to expand the list of conditions covered under the program. The Health Department says it plans to review its approval program in three months.

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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