Miami Herald by Carol Marbin Miller & Daniel Chang
June 22, 2021
Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed legislation overhauling the controversial Florida program that provides lifelong care for children born with catastrophic brain damage, approving the most far-reaching reform in the program’s 33-year history.
With DeSantis’ signature Monday night, parents who participate in the Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association, or NICA, will get an immediate $150,000 cash benefit, and the pledge of Florida lawmakers that they will no longer have to fight with administrators for wheelchairs, medication, therapy and other services for their severely disabled children.
That’s on top of the $100,000 the law previously provided, which had not been increased since the program’s inception. Families said that original amount fell far short of providing what’s necessary for a severely disabled child.
The law, which takes effect immediately, follows an investigation by the Miami Herald, in conjunction with the investigative newsroom ProPublica, that found NICA had generated nearly $1.5 billion in assets — largely through the investment of assessments paid by doctors and hospitals. At the same time, families complained, administrators frequently delayed or denied medication, therapy, equipment and nursing services to parents struggling to pay their bills.