Back in April, a settlement was reached in the Frew v. Hawkins lawsuit, which had to do with the state of Texas failing to meet its Medicaid obligations. Yesterday, that settlement was approved by the judge, which brings this long saga to a close.
"The court concludes the proposed corrective action plan is fair, reasonable and adequate," said [U.S. District Judge William Wayne] Justice. He's expected to sign a formal order later.
Lawmakers budgeted a boost of nearly $1.8 billion over two years -- $706.7 million in state general revenue and the rest in federal matching funds -- for improvements including higher rates for doctors and dentists who treat youngsters under the Medicaid program.
The rate hike is meant to increase the number of health care providers who treat children under Medicaid.
The Legislature approved enough money for a 25 percent rate increase for doctors and 50 percent for dentists. But those working on the plan intend to target the funds at key services instead of giving a flat, across-the-board increase. That would mean bigger hikes for basic dental services such as X-rays and fillings and key physician services such as checkups and immunizations.
The plan also addresses services including outreach; case management; timely answering of toll-free hot lines; ensuring needed prescriptions aren't held up just because the medicine isn't on the state's preferred drug list; and provision of transportation.
"These children have been waiting for relief for years now," said San Antonio lawyer Susan Zinn, representing the children served by Medicaid, in urging Justice to approve the settlement. "They need it now."
Justice acknowledged the long road taken by the case, which started in 1993 with a lawsuit by mothers who said their children weren't getting the care they needed under Medicaid.
The state and lawyers for the children in 1995 agreed to a settlement that Justice approved as a consent decree, but legal squabbles ensued over whether the decree should remain in place and whether state officials were living up to their part of the bargain.
"I'm glad this litigation has been settled," Justice said. "I was 73 years of age when this case began. Now I'm 87."