Brain injured children receiving more cash

Published: Aug. 3, 2021 at 5:14 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) - Florida lawmakers this year revamped a 32-year-old program for people who suffer brain injuries at birth.

The plan known as the Neurological Injury Compensation Association, or NICA, takes care of brain-injured children for life and was originally adopted to lower malpractice for doctors.

In 1988, hundreds of doctors marched on the State Capitol protesting skyrocketing malpractice insurance rates.

“And it has become a major health care threat,” said one doctor we spoke with at the time.

Born was the Neurological Injury Compensation Association.

Parents can’t sue but get care for life.

It is funded by an annual assessment on doctors.

The fund got lawmakers’ attention when it amassed more than a billion dollars in reserves.

“And they have apparently been not getting the support that they needed,” said State Representative Allison Tant.

The fund was accused of fighting parents over benefits.

“There is no cap on anything, so whatever the doctor says they need, based on that child’s condition, we pay for it,” said NICA Executive Director Kenney Shipley.

This year lawmakers ordered NICA to spend more money helping families.

The legislation increased the initial $100,000 payment to a quarter-million dollars and it applies retroactively to every family.

Dave and Ester Morgan’s daughter, Melinda, was born in 1993.

“The doctors told us she probably had 24 hours, and she’s 27,” said Dave.

The Morgans initially wanted to sue.

“Knowing what we know now, I can’t tell you how thankful I am for NICA,” said Ester.

Still, the Florida Justice Association argued the changes don’t go far enough.

“The financial allowance for these families is still woefully inadequate,” said Association Treasurer Stephen Cain.

From now on, there will also be a parent and a physician on an expanded NICA board to advocate for children.

The Justice Association believes lawmakers aren’t done with NICA and expects benefit levels to be reexamined next year.

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