Florida Health Agency Diverted AIDS Funds To Pay for Treatment for Child With Well-Connected Parents, Report Says
Florida Agency for Health Care Administration Medicaid Bureau Chief Shelly Brantley and possibly others in the agency diverted about $200,000 in federal AIDS funds to pay for treatments for a "politically connected" Broward County couple's adopted autistic child, according to a new report by the agency's inspector general, the Miami Herald reports. The couple in 1999 threatened to sue the state or give back the adopted child when officials refused to pay for their child's care, Martha Creel, former AHCA Medicaid office employee, told investigators. According to the 200-page report, when the parents threatened to sue the state over the costs of their child's treatment, administrators diverted about $40,000 annually beginning in 1999 from the state's Project AIDS Care program, which provides services to people living with AIDS. The report says that at least two prominent officials told investigators that Brantley, and possibly others, approved the funding. In August 2004, an investigation was launched after a retired AHCA program analyst, Colm McAindru, filed a complaint with the inspector general, alleging "violations of state and federal laws" by his former employers. McAindru told investigators that when he asked Brantley in 2002 or 2003 whether it was right to divert money intended for AIDS patients to pay for the child's treatment, Brantley replied, "Find a way to pay it. Do what you're told to do."
AHCA spokesperson Jonathan Burns said the agency did not plan to reimburse PAC for the money that was diverted. Brandi Brown, also a spokesperson for AHCA, said that few of the people involved in the case are still employed with the agency, so "disciplinary actions have not been taken." Burns, citing federal privacy laws, did not say whether the AIDS program was still financing the child's treatment. The report raises concerns that the state social service administration regularly diverts funds from one area to cover shortfalls in another, according to the Herald. Florida AIDS advocates said the case confirms their suspicions that HIV-positive people often "suffer particular neglect in a state known for its meager spending on social services," the Herald reports. Brantley, now the director for Florida's Agency for Persons with Disabilities, and the adoptive mother of the child declined to comment on the case (Marbin Miller, Miami Herald, 10/12).