Bill for Medicaid matching dollars in schools hits Ron DeSantis’ desk

pediatric care Medicaid (Large)
The state is missing out on millions of dollars available from the federal government.

Schools could soon draw down millions of matching federal health care dollars given Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ OK.

That legislation (HB 81), by Rep. Alex Andrade, would allow the state to access Medicaid dollars to help pay for some health care services in schools provided through the Florida Medicaid Certified School Match Program.

Only about 15% of students meet the state’s current individualized education plan or finding of disability to meet current requirements, Andrade says. But despite the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which administers the program, dropped that requirement in 2014, Florida hasn’t yet caught up.

His bill could pull additional federal dollars for mental health, speech pathology and physical therapy in public schools.

“At no cost to the state, we’d be drawing down $100 million dollars more,” Andrade told Florida Politics.

The Florida Policy Institute, which backed his bill and Sen. Bill Montford’s version, puts that estimate at more than $50 million. And more than 1 million of the state’s 2.7 million public school students are on Medicaid, according to the group.

CMS’ 2014 change also cut the requirement that people could also quality under the individuals with Disabilities Education Act or exceptional services.

The program covers physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy services, behavioral health services, mental health services and transportation services. Health services provided under the plan must be educationally relevant, medically necessary and tailored to meet the recipient’s individual needs.

Florida’s Medicaid program covers approximately 3.8 million low-income individuals.

The version that reached the Governor’s desk Tuesday also requires the Department of Health to create an informational pamphlet with information on screening and treatment for preventable infant and childhood eye and visions disorders. Hospitals, birth centers, and health care  practitioners attending out-of-hospital births must provide the pamphlet to the parents of a newborn child.

And it would amend the statutory definition of an auditory-oral education program to indicate that those programs must use faculty and supervisors certified as listening and spoken language specialists each day a participating child attends.

DeSantis has until June 30 to act the bill, which passed both the House and Senate unanimously in March. Without his veto, the measure becomes law July 1.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


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