May 31, 2024

Groups Prioritizing Children’s Health Applaud Federal Judge Tossing State’s Lawsuit That Sought to Undermine Kids’ Health Care Coverage

Health Advocacy Organizations Urge the DeSantis Administration to Pivot to Bettering Access to Kids’ Health Care

STATEWIDE - Florida Policy Institute (FPI) and Florida Health Justice Project (FHJP), groups that support access to affordable health care coverage, today weighed in on Judge William Jung’s decision dismissing  Florida’s lawsuit against the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

The judge’s decision means that the district court does not have jurisdiction on whether the state can contest CMS’s interpretation of a new law regarding continuous eligibility, which states that Florida children enrolled in CHIP/KidCare cannot be disenrolled if their families miss a monthly premium payment.

Sadaf Knight, CEO of FPI, said: “We applaud the judge’s decision to dismiss this case. The new law and interpretation by CMS regarding continuous eligibility will enable tens of thousands more children and youth to receive much needed health care without fear of early termination of coverage. Though the case was dismissed,  it does not mark the end of this issue, as Judge Jung’s ruling allows the state to appeal through the proper administrative processes at CMS. We strongly urge the DeSantis administration to adhere to the new law for the benefit of Florida’s families — the focus should be on improving children’s access to affordable health care coverage, not mounting additional barriers and undermining federal protections for children who rely on Medicaid and CHIP. The administration needs to go back and re-enroll the thousands of kids they have pushed off of the Kidcare/CHIP programs counter to the new law, since January 1.”

Lynn Hearn, advocacy director of Florida Health Justice Project, said: “The court's decision today completely eliminates any excuse Florida believed it had beginning January 1, 2024 to disenroll children from CHIP/KidCare, when their parents miss a single premium payment. Florida must stop these disenrollments immediately, and direct its resources toward expanding and improving access to health care for Florida’s children rather than impeding it.”

On Feb. 1, 2024, the state Agency for Health Care Administration filed a lawsuit against the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Department of Health and Human Services, claiming that a new requirement “unlawfully undermines” the recent expansion of Florida’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

In 2023, the Florida Legislature passed legislation (HB 121) that increases the household income threshold for KidCare — the state’s CHIP — from 200 to 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), which will enable an estimated 42,000 kids to get coverage with lower premiums. While new payment tiers for the program were slated to take effect on Jan. 1, 2024, a misinterpretation of federal procedures delayed the state’s implementation, and families within this expansion group have been unable to access CHIP.

The federal Consolidated Appropriations Act took effect on January 1, 2024, which requires states to provide 12 months of continuous eligibility to children under 19 who are enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP, with no exceptions. In October 2023, CMS had clarified that non-payment of premiums is not an exception to the new continuous eligibility law. Florida contests CMS’s interpretation in its lawsuit.

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