Florida hurts distraught parents with babies with brain injuries.Congressman has two weeks to fix it

Most Floridians only know about a program of ambiguous conditions called the Birth-Related Nerve Injury Compensation Association (NICA) at the horrifying moment when they learn that a newborn has suffered catastrophic brain damage due to oxygen deficiency during childbirth. ..

For Yamile “Jamie” Acebo, the devastating blow happened in 1989, when her baby, Jasmine, was born. Until a few hours later, Asevo was unaware that the doctor had stabbed the placenta, which carries blood and oxygen into the baby’s brain. The nurse showed a picture of her baby in a wire and tube nest.

Faced with the dire emotional and financial outlook of raising a child with a severe disability, Asevo has taken the only real path open to her in Florida. She participated in the NICA program. It paid her a lump sum of $ 100,000 and promised her daughter a lifetime of medical care. In Florida, if she tried to sue her doctor, she would have been led to the program anyway.

However, it wasn’t until later that reality sank. Just by attending the program, like hundreds of other parents in Florida, Acebo has permanently waived her right to sue a doctor. And NICA promised to pay for “reasonable” and “necessary” lifelong care? From replacing a special bed of collapsed Jasmine (the agency asked if it could be welded back) to actually supplying a wheelchair that fits her daughter’s growing body. I had to hunt them down to pay for some basic items. The battle lasted an unimaginable 27 years until Jasmine died.

“Birth and betrayal” Miami Herald Series Produced in partnership with investigative journalism ProPublicaReveals how the Florida program was claimed as the benevolent answer to the state’s most vulnerable people, doing more financial benefits and doctor protection than families.

In a two-year study, Herald’s reporter recorded that NICA had accumulated nearly $ 1.5 billion in assets, but refused or postponed support for family members while protecting doctors from liability. They showed how the program pushes back the costs of many families — even hiring private detectives in some cases — but lawyers still pay hundreds of thousands to fight benefit demands. ..

They revealed that a program dealing with what Congress once called a “bad baby” birth has not increased the initial benefits to the family since its inception in 1988. Know exactly what happened to your child during childbirth, even if the baby did not survive.

If that terrible ectenia isn’t enough, there’s more. The five-member NICA board includes insurance agents, doctors and hospitals, but has never been attended by NICA parents. Then NICA has a way to handle the claim, claiming it is the “last resort payer” and shifting costs to Medicaid. (This issue is part of a federal proceeding in Florida and is similar to the recently settled proceeding in Virginia, the only other state implementing the NICA program.)

But the main problem is this: Florida has forced families of children with catastrophic brain damage for 33 years to accept the terms of this program as a way to get financial support, perhaps at the worst moments of life. All of the right to sue in the name of protecting the obstetrician from liability who removed them at the same time.

This is what the government is terribly wrong with. It’s cruelty in the guise of help. And the ones who pay the highest price are the ones who should be protected the most. A family suffering from an already injured world.

To be fair, some families are happy with the program. NICA may be “dimming with nickel”, but some say the program takes care of their children. However, from the examples in the series, it is clear that there are too many families like Acebos.

Therefore, the NICA program requires an immediate and thorough review, a legislative plan to correct it, and the public accounting of the person in charge. With two weeks left in the legislative session, it may be difficult for lawmakers, but it’s a shame. These families should not have to wait until next year.

It was the state legislature that created the program in the 1980s to correct what was believed to be a medical malpractice crisis in Florida. NICA was designed to curb premium premiums for doctors who gave birth and, in some cases, may face millions of dollars in jury decisions. Without a program, reasoning would go on and obstetricians would leave the state in large numbers.

But while assisting obstetricians (including covering the worst of them), lawmakers have caused decades of harm and difficulty to their families.

The 2013 bill may have helped at least a little. NICA needed to be informed annually about the benefits available to parents. He also proposed adding NICA parents or guardians to the board overseeing the program.

However, I didn’t go anywhere, probably because Kenny Shipley, the secretary general of NICA, opposed it. “We are not here or are not funding to’promote the best interests’ of our children,” she said in an email to the lobbyist in a comment she revealed. Shipley needs a new march order or has to bring the coldness of the opposite effect.

Apparently, this needs to be explained in detail. Government programs should not help obstetricians at the expense of families of children with brain damage.

Authorities have begun to respond since the series was published.Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis Announces NICA Book Review, “Parents should not be in a position to feel pressure to waive their rights.”

And Congress has a bill, CS / SB 1786It is sponsored by Senator Lauren Book of the Democratic Party of Broward County and Senator Danny Burgess of the Republican of Zephyrhills. Some of the provisions under consideration are retroactively increasing parental lump sums, creating ombudsmen, adding NICA parents to the board, requiring that expense requests be met within 20 days, and the board. For example, it requires members to comply with the Code of Ethics.

NICA Responded In the story, the survey did not provide a “fully accurate” image. According to NICA, the program is funded by doctors and hospitals, with at least $ 1.05 billion in debt to future costs out of $ 1.5 billion in assets. NICA said it made “continuous” efforts to address family issues and at the same time “fulfilled its obligations as a financial manager.”

But that’s the problem. Being a “financial steward” should not be prioritized over treating these families and children with their hearts. Rather, these dual missions should be on an equal footing.

The law also imposes another atrocities on families. It stops them from learning the truth about what happened to their children.Lindsey and James Johnson died eight days after their son Cooper was born and joined the NICA program. Immediately regretted.. Sixteen months later, James Johnson petitioned Change.org to increase accountability to both obstetricians and NICA.

Another desperate parent, Ruth Jack, After his son Reginald was born with a catastrophic brain injury, he posted a leaflet warning patients to stay away from obstetrician Dr. Ricardo Lopez. But Lopez was able to do what she couldn’t, so she was advised to quit: he was able to sue her. Since then, every year on her son’s birthday and the anniversary of his death, she takes one action that is permitted. It is to file a new complaint with the state Department of Health.

She wants doctors who have experienced other NICA cases to remember that Reggie was alive and that he died.

But those complaints must be more than a reminder pasted into a government file. They must act as a call for action. If the legislators have any compassion, they must now modify this program for the family of Jasmine, Cooper and Reggie and everything else coming.