Miami Herald by Carol Marbin Miller and Daniel Chang
April 22, 2021
Parents of severely brain-damaged children covered by a controversial state program accused of “nickel-and-diming” struggling families would receive an extra $150,000 — and an array of additional benefits — under reform legislation preliminarily approved Thursday by the Florida Senate.
The bill, which encountered no opposition on the Senate floor, is intended to offer better protections and more financial relief for the roughly 215 clients — some of them now adults — whose medical care and in-home nursing is managed by the Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association, an obscure state program created by the Legislature in 1988.
The bill awaits another vote in the chamber — and a companion version has yet to be taken up on the floor of the House of Representatives — before differences between chambers can be ironed out and it is sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his signature. The Senate version’s provisions would take effect immediately.
NICA, as the program is called, was conceived as a buttress against rising medical malpractice premiums that doctors and their advocates claimed were driving obstetricians out of the state.
Under Florida law, the parents of certain children who were left “substantially” impaired both cognitively and physically from oxygen deprivation at birth are precluded from suing their doctor or hospital. In exchange, they receive a one-time $100,000 payment, and the promise of “medically necessary” and “reasonable” health care for the life of their child.