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Narendra Kini: Proposed cuts to Medicaid will hurt children’s care in South Florida

These cuts erode care for South Florida’s most vulnerable children.

When a child becomes sick or injured, families look to Florida’s children’s hospitals for care — in South Florida, families turn to Nicklaus Children’s.

We are one of four specialty-licensed, free-standing children’s hospitals operating in the state of Florida and in South Florida, we are committed to providing specialized and comprehensive medical services for thousands of children in need.

This year, however, lawmakers are proposing deep cuts to Nicklaus Children’s and other hospitals across the state that could hinder access to care for our community’s most vulnerable population.

As the national environment for health care changes, hospitals like our own are experiencing financial pressures, including reductions in reimbursements from payers, rising costs, and market shifts to alternative health care delivery models.

Historically, the Florida Legislature has protected specialty-licensed children’s hospitals from cuts because they’ve understood the importance of the unique care we provide to Florida’s most critically ill and injured children on Medicaid.

This year, the Legislature is proposing Medicaid cuts that will disproportionately impact Nicklaus Children’s, as a result of the high volume of Medicaid patients we serve.

These cuts erode care for South Florida’s most vulnerable children.

The Florida Senate proposal contains $3.1 million in cuts to Medicaid reimbursements for Nicklaus Children’s, while the House proposal contains $5.2 million in cuts.

As it stands, hospitals in Florida do not receive the full cost of providing care under the Medicaid program, with Nicklaus Children’s currently reimbursed at approximately 80 percent of cost.

At Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, we focus on treating sick and injured kids, and we provide care to a very high percentage of children on Medicaid. Nearly two out of three children in Florida are insured under the Medicaid program, and at our hospital that accounts for roughly 67 percent of all children we serve.

In just the last year, our hospital was able to care for over 450,000 children. Our hospital also provides services that no other hospital in our area provides: epilepsy and seizure care, pediatric trauma services, neonatal transport, among others.

Whether it’s a newborn with cardiac disease or a teenager with a rare cancer disorder, hospitals like our own play an indispensable role in our communities, providing care to children with families who often don’t have the means to afford care. Children are best served in an environment that is specifically trained to care for them every day.

The cuts proposed by the Florida Legislature would be devastating to Nicklaus Children’s, and children and families in our community.

As this process moves forward, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital will continue to champion for children and their right to receive the highest level of pediatric care.

We hope that during the remainder of Session, the Legislature removes these cuts from the budget and protects free-standing children’s hospitals, for the well-being and health of the thousands of children and adolescents in Florida and our South Florida community who depend on specialty-licensed children’s hospitals like our own.

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Dr. Narendra Kini is CEO of Nicklaus Children’s Health System.

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