PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Rita Gorenflo’s 7-year-old son Nathaniel was in severe pain from a sinus infection.
But since the boy was covered by Medicaid, she couldn’t immediately find a specialist willing to see him. After days of calling, she was finally able to get Nathaniel an appointment nearly a week later near their South Florida home. That was in 2005.
Last month, ruling in a lawsuit brought by the state’s pediatricians and patient advocacy groups, a federal district judge in Miami determined Nathaniel’s wait was “unreasonable” and that Florida’s Medicaid program was failing him and nearly 2 million other children by not paying enough money to doctors and dentists to ensure the kids have adequate access to care.
The Florida case is the latest effort to get federal judges to force states to increase Medicaid provider payment rates for the state and federal program that covers about 70 million low-income Americans. In the past two decades, similar cases have been filed in numerous states, including California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Texas and the District of Columbia– with many resulting in higher pay.