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Florida Legislature Decides Medicaid Recipients Deserve Less Rights


Every so often a law comes along that so blatantly discriminates against one group of people that we all must stop and wonder how legislators can justify their actions even to themselves.

It may be that the target of such obviously unfair laws is no longer limited to race or religion. Instead, many of the individuals that now face the most significant discrimination are the poorest among us; whose lower socioeconomic status apparently entitles them to less justice than the rest of us. That is very certainly an opinion that a majority of our legislators held when they recently passed Florida Statute § 766.118(6).

A recent manifestation of their apparent lack of concern for the less fortunate in Florida,  F.S. § 766.118(6), purposely limits the ability of Medicaid recipients to make the same financial recovery as non-Medicaid patients. Florida Statute 766.118 was originally enacted in 2003 with the Florida legislature placing caps on what non-economic damages a plaintiff can recover in a lawsuit arising from medical negligence.

Non-economic damages in Florida include portions of a judgment allocated for:

  • pain and suffering
  • mental anguish
  • loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life

Simply, this means that regardless of what a jury decides that an injured person’s pain & suffering is valued at, that recovery is limited to whatever the legislative branch dictates. This is true without regard for the individual of that person’s injuries, disabilities, or their suffering.  Apparently, Florida lawmakers have determined that the citizens of our state that take the time to serve as jurors are simply incapable of hearing evidence in a case first hand and then rendering an acceptable award of damages.

The Florida Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in McCall v. The United States of America over whether non-economic caps on medical negligence verdicts under Florida Statute § 766.118 are unconstitutional.

Though the constitutionality of non-economic caps has been a matter of great debate since the law was passed in 2003, the 2011 amendment to the law placed even further limitations on recovery for those who receive Medicaid. Florida Statute §766.118(6) limits a Medicaid patient that is the victim of medical negligence to a recovery of only $300,000 in non-economic damages and only $200,000 from a single practitioner or doctor. This is considerably less than the other caps imposed by Florida Statute §768.118, on anyone who is not a Medicaid recipient.

For example, in cases involving death or a permanent vegetative state, a non-Medicaid individual may recover up to $1 million in non-economic damages from practitioners, but a Medicaid patient may only recover up to $300,000.

What it comes down to is lawmakers treating the lives of those of lower economic means with less importance and valuing the significance of their pain and suffering more cheaply than that of everyone else. With Florida Statute §766.118, the legislature decided that human lives and pain and suffering are only worth so much, while section 6 amended that to declare that the lives and suffering of the less fortunate are worth even less.

I’ve always agreed with Ghandi’s quote that, “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” In Florida, our lawmakers have decided that those in the most need should be treated as inferior to everyone else.

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