U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is urging the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to open an investigation into reports that Florida has mismanaged the Medicaid program for children with disabilities.
In a letter addressed to CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, Crist requested the agency look into allegations that Florida failed for nearly three months to pay tens of thousands of health care claims for the state’s sickest and neediest children, as reported by Fresh Take Florida.
Officials with the Florida agency blamed the failure on software glitches caused by a recent corporate merger of its two largest payment vendors.
“In order to safeguard Florida families and federal taxpayers’ investment in Florida’s Medicaid Waiver, I request that CMS investigate how this could have happened, why families and small businesses were made to suffer so long, and what steps need to be taken to keep this from happening again,” Crist wrote in the letter. “I know you share my concern for children with disabilities and their families, along with the integrity of Medicaid.”
The problems started after Medicaid payment vendors — Sunshine State Health Plan Inc. of Tampa and WellCare of Florida Inc. — merged on Oct. 1. That’s when, according to the letter, the state-contracted Medicaid managed care providers stopped reimbursing caregivers for children with disabilities.
Both the company and the state Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), which oversees Florida’s Medicaid program, failed to take action for months. This forced providers across the state to shutter their doors and parents to leave their jobs to provide round-the-clock care for their children with disabilities. The nonpayment of claims affected about 400 care providers for months, according to the report.
“Beyond the incalculable impact to providers, many of which are small businesses just trying to care for children with disabilities, the number of families with children with disabilities that lost their caregiver must be in the thousands,” Crist wrote in the letter.
All total, the companies hold multiyear contracts worth $31.6 billion from AHCA.
“This is a pattern of neglect that started with the unemployment fiasco that hung over 1 million Florida workers who lost their job during the pandemic out to dry. Now it’s children with disabilities and their families, along with the small businesses that care for them, who are feeling the pain,” Crist said in a statement. “Since Gov. DeSantis seems more interested in stoking culture wars and playing politics instead of doing his job, I’m calling on the federal Medicaid agency to investigate how this could have happened and how we can keep it from happening again. Florida families who have a child with a disability deserve answers.”