Congressional report shows how premiums could change under 'Trumpcare'

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The anticipated report from the Congressional Budget Office has shed new light on how the Republicans' American Health Care Act could affect premiums for many in the U.S.

The report was released just weeks after Republicans narrowly passed a health bill through the House of Representatives. But Senate Republicans will have to pass their version of the bill and will likely face more questions about its effects after this report.

The CBO analyzed the bill as currently written and found it would drastically change health care in the U.S. They estimate the law would reduce the federal deficit by $119 billion oven ten years, but also leave 23 million more Americans without health insurance compared to current law.

 Additionally the bill would have huge effects on premiums for older Americans and those with health conditions. Here's a break down on how premiums could change:

Pre-Existing Conditions

Under the new law, people with pre-existing conditions cannot be barred from insurance coverage. However, some states could apply for waivers that would allow insurance companies to charge higher premiums for those individuals. States that apply for the waiver would have to implement high-risk insurance pools to accommodate them. But some health care experts are skeptical that high-risk pools would have enough money to fully cover people in need.

The CBO found that people with pre-existing conditions could face insurance premiums so high they would be unable to afford coverage.

"Community-rated premiums would rise over time, and people who are less healthy (including those with preexisting or newly acquired medical conditions) would ultimately be unable to purchase comprehensive non group health insurance at premiums comparable to those under current law, if they could purchase it at all," reads the report.

The community rating provision is a way of setting premiums designed to ensure risk is spread evenly across a larger pool. This means that people are charged the same rate regardless of factors like health status. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies may charge different rates for identical plans only on the basis of age, geographic location, the number of people covered and tobacco use, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told ABC News in an earlier interview that without protection from higher premiums, people with pre-existing conditions would likely be priced out of coverage. In the 1990s, she added, people with pre-existing conditions who recently lost their jobs were supposed to be protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act from losing or being prevented from obtaining insurance coverage. However, insurance companies charged far higher premiums for people with pre-existing conditions.

"To actually protect someone with pre-existing condition ... they need full protection," Pollitz said. "Otherwise, it's like giving someone half a bulletproof vest."

Older People vs. Younger People

The CBO also estimated that older people could see premiums drastically increase; some could face premiums nine times higher than under the current law. This is due in part to the proposed changes to the age ratio and tax credits.

Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies may charge an older person no more than three times its premium for a younger person with an identical plan. The new bill would increase the maximum allowable ratio to five to one, which could significantly increase older people's premiums for comparable plans.

Additionally, tax credits to help pay for healthcare would change dramatically. While the ACA offers a scale of credits that take into account several factors, including family income, cost of insurance and age, the Trumpcare plan would offer flat tax credits per individual, according to age. The bill outlines tax credits of $2,000 to $14,000 a year for individuals who don’t get insurance coverage from an employer or the government. The credits would be based on age instead of income and would be capped for higher earners.

"Under the act, premiums for older people could be five times larger than those for younger people in many states, but the size of the tax credits for older people would be only twice the size of the credits for younger people," the report says.

The CBO estimated that in 2026 the net premiums for a 64-year-old earning $28,500 would rise from $1,700 per year to as much as $13,600 to $16,100 under the current bill, depending on whether the person lives in a waiver state. At an income of $68,200, the same person's out-of-pocket cost for premiums could go down slightly from $15,300 to as low as $13,600, if state had a waiver, or increase slightly to $16,100 without a waiver.

But, younger people under the AHCA may not see their premiums change greatly, or they may decrease due in part to the age ratio change.

The CBO estimated that a 21-year-old making $26,500 would have premiums between $1,750 and $1,250 depending on if their state applied for waivers. The same person's premiums are estimated at $1,700 under the ACA.

At an income of $68,200, out-of-pocket cost for premiums may decrease from $5,100 to between $1,750 and $1,250.

Officials at the CBO acknowledge that these estimates "are inherently uncertain because the ways in which federal agencies, states, insurers, employers, individuals, doctors, hospitals, and other affected parties would respond to the changes made by the legislation are all difficult to predict."

Medical and patient groups have pointed to the CBO score as further evidence the bill could harm those who need care the most, older Americans who have low incomes and do not yet qualify for Medicare.

AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond, said in a statement that the bill would have a "devastating impact" on older Americans.

"The CBO analysis found that premiums would go up to unaffordable levels by inflicting an Age Tax and removing current protections for people with common conditions including diabetes and weight gain. Putting a greater financial burden on older Americans is not the way to solve the problems in our health care system," LeaMond said.

An American Medical Association statement urged the Senate to take action to keep people from losing affordable health coverage.

"Today’s estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office show that last-minute changes to the AHCA made by the House offered no real improvements. Millions of Americans will become uninsured--with low-income families on Medicaid being hit the hardest," the statement said.

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Senate laying groundwork for own health care replacement bill 

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Republicans left their last lunch meeting before a weeklong recess optimistic that they can at least start working on their own version of a health care bill, with something on paper to discuss when they return in June.

“I think leadership is going to spend this recess trying to develop a product,” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, said. “Now we’ll have a base of a Senate bill based on all these discussions, based on what the House did, based on the CBO score,” he continued, referring to analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which measures the budgetary impact of all legislation.

While many lawmakers said there had been enough intra-conference discussions to at least launch Senate leaders and the heads of relevant committees on writing a blueprint, they also made clear there would still be plenty of wrangling among the rank-and-file before anything final emerges.

“We’re negotiating. It’s too early,” Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, said.

The Republican-led Senate can only afford to lose two of its 52 members and still pass a health care bill. But there are diverse opinions and priorities among that group, and senators are well aware that the legislation must have almost universal appeal.

“This exercise happens to be one that involves everybody. We know that. I mean, we don’t have any margin,” Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, a member of Senate leadership, said.

He and other senators said they would be spending the Memorial Day recess reviewing the discussions that have been taking place in the Senate over the past few weeks. While all members have been invited to join the meetings, the core group includes the chairmen of the Budget, Finance, and Help, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committees, Senate leadership and a handful of other senators that have met to discuss health care long before the House passed its version of the bill on May 4.

“We’ve had a lot of discussions and now the timing is serious about the drafting process and that’ll of course take some time,” Thune said.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, another member of Senate leadership, said members of the conference have been meeting about five hours each week.

The upper chamber is focused, as were their House counterparts, on lowering insurance premiums as the ultimate goal, even if fewer people end up being covered because the new bill will have removed the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

But some Republicans object to the House plan’s age-based tax credit structure, which some have argued places an undue burden on groups that can least afford it.

“Unfortunately, the CBO estimates that 23 million Americans would lose insurance coverage over the next decade, and the impact would disproportionately affect older, low-income Americans,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate Republican who has been working with Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, on an entirely different plan, said of the House bill.

For his part, Cassidy reiterated his call for any bill to provide coverage for anyone with a life-threatening illness even if they exceed a certain amount of costs, which he called the “Jimmy Kimmel test” after the late-night talk show host revealed his newborn son’s medical travails, making a plea for affordable health care for all.

The Senate bill must appease Cassidy and Collins as well as senators like Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, who object to the tax credit structure in general.

Some Republicans have also expressed concerns about the House’s waiver program that would allow them to opt out of certain regulations like providing what’s known as essential health benefits, required to be covered under Obamacare, and not charging people with pre-existing conditions higher premiums.

Others, especially senators who come from states that accepted the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid, object to the House bill’s phasing out of that expansion.

Senators have long made clear that their version will look much different from the House one, but besides getting all their members on board, they must also be mindful of what is passable in the House, which will likely have to vote on whatever final bill is hammered out between the two.

For now, the upper chamber is focused on an agreement that can satisfy 96 percent of its members (plus Vice President Mike Pence as a tiebreaker if needed).

Asked what he will say to constituents back home in Florida who might be concerned about the CBO report showing so many people could lose coverage under the House proposal, Sen. Marco Rubio said he’ll make clear that the Senate is working on its own legislation, the implication being that it won’t mirror the House bill.

“The Senate bill is going to be the Senate bill,” he said.

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Rate of Alzheimer's disease deaths jumped 54 pct. in 15 years, CDC finds

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The rate of deaths related to Alzheimer's disease jumped by 54.5 percent over 15 years, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There were 93,541 deaths related to Alzheimer's disease in 2014, a rate of 25.4 deaths per 100,000 population, up from 44,536 deaths in 1999, a rate of 16.5 death per 100,000 people, according to the report.

The disease currently affects an estimated 5.5 million people in the U.S. but that number is expected to rise dramatically in people over the age of 65 to 13.8 million in 2050. The researchers examined death certificate data from the National Vital Statistics System to reach their findings.

Keith Fargo, director of the scientific program at the Alzheimer's Association, said that the study highlights the need for support and research into therapies to treat Alzheimer's disease.

"It's the only cause of death in the top 10 that does not have a way to prevent it or stop it," Fargo told ABC News.

CDC researchers did not study why there was in an increase but reported one likely factor is that more people were surviving to old age. They found from 1999 to 2005 the greatest increase in mortality rate related to Alzheimer's disease was in people over the age of 85.

Fargo said he was dismayed to see in the report that 24.9 percent of people with Alzheimer's disease were dying at home rather than in a medical facility.

"Before you die people become completely bed bound," said Fargo. "It requires and intense level of caregiving to the end."

Fargo said the fact that more people were dying at home indicated that people did not have the resources to get appropriate help at long-term care facilities like nursing homes. Fargo said providing that level of care can take a severe toll emotionally and physically. The CDC estimates caregivers provided 18.2 billion hours of unpaid care to dementia patients in 2015.

"The caregivers for Alzheimer's disease have $9 billion more in Medicare claims of their own," in addition to the claims of their loved ones Fargo said. Caregiving is "so stressful it takes a physical toll on the bodies."

The CDC researchers point out that increasing rates of Alzheimer's disease will mean more people need support to care and treat these patients.

"Until Alzheimer’s can be prevented, slowed, or stopped, caregiving for persons with advanced Alzheimer’s will remain a demanding task," the authors wrote. "An increasing number of Alzheimer’s deaths coupled with an increasing number of patients dying at home suggests that there is an increasing number of caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s. It is likely that these caregivers might benefit from interventions such as education, respite care, and case management that can lessen the potential burden of caregiving."

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8 moms, all 8 months pregnant after Hurricane Matthew, celebrate their storm 'miracles'

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- These eight moms are all celebrating their little “miracles” that came out of destruction.

They each got pregnant around the time of Hurricane Matthew, which hit South Carolina’s Lowcountry region last October. Residents either evacuated or sheltered in place while trees, homes and property were destroyed.

Cassie Clayshulte, the official newborn photographer for Coastal Carolina Hospital in Hardeeville, said she knew there would be a surge of pregnancies after the storm.

“About nine months from a big storm or a big power outage, even nine months from Valentine’s Day or the holidays, I’ll always see a surge in births at the hospital. We were all sequestered in places with no power or evacuated for a week or longer and so I thought I might have a surge in business,” Clayshulte told ABC News. “I got this vision of all these moms lined up celebrating these little miracles that may not have happened if it weren’t for the hurricane.”

She posted the idea for the creative photo shoot on her Facebook page, explaining she was “looking for moms who made babies during the hurricane and are willing to talk about it.”

“I wanted to show everyone that the storm gave some Bluffton, Beaufort, and Hilton Head couples a special miracle,” said Clayshulte. “If it weren’t for Matthew, these eight couples wouldn’t be expecting these little miracles. Some of these couples had trouble conceiving, experienced difficult previous pregnancies, and even had to undergo several rounds of fertility treatments to become pregnant. This storm destroyed trees and property and our area’s tourism industry took a big hit, but the storm helped these couples create something even more beautiful and these stunning mommies-to-be are living proof.”

One of the moms, Lindsey Gullett, said the military forced her to evacuate her Beaufort home.

“We chose to go to Chattanooga, Tennessee, for six nights,” she said. “Our apartment complex was completely under water.”

Another mom, Molly Spears of Bluffton said her family was very fortunate to not have any damage to their home.

“We lost power for about 72 hours and the worst to come of that was I lost my entire freezer stash of breast milk,” said Spears. “We evacuated to Cashiers, North Carolina, and stayed at my sister-in-law’s mountain cabin for the week.

“We decided to go ahead and try for another great kid. I call our first Hurricane Porter, so it will be interesting to see if little sister is just as wild, especially since she was conceived during an actual hurricane!” she quipped.

These moms are thrilled for their new bundles of joy whom they refer to as their “little miracles.”

“I feel babies always come at a time when they are most needed,” said mom Danielle Lewis of Bluffton. “When he is born, I feel he will fill a hole in our lives we didn't even know was missing. I'm so eager and excited to meet him.”

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Hate Mondays? Blame your sleep Sunday night

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Sunday night is the worst night of the week for sleeping, according to a recent survey of nearly 4,280 Americas published by the app

Since your presumably lousy Mondays are presumably caused by being tired, this is important. And you're not alone: nearly half of those surveyed say they have the worst trouble sleeping Sunday compared to other days of the week.

"Many people go to bed later on Friday and Saturday nights and then sleep in later on Saturday and Sunday mornings," says Steve Orma, clinical psychologist and insomnia specialist. "So, when they go to bed on Sunday night, they’re often just not tired. And then when they can’t sleep, they start to think about why they’re not sleeping, which only makes things worse."

While sleep deprivation has been linked to all manner of health issues, from obesity to heart disease, take comfort in one thing as you drift off tonight: Thursdays are the best nights for sleep, the survey reveals.

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Poor sleep is linked to higher death risk in those with heart issues

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Diseases of the blood vessels supplying the heart and brain tissues are leading causes of death among Americans.

And while researchers have known that things like metabolic syndrome -- high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and/or triglycerides, high body mass index and high blood sugar -- and poor sleep increase the risk of these diseases, the true impact of these other factors has remained poorly understood so far.

Researchers at Stanford University examined these metabolic risk measures, along with sleep duration, in more than 1,300 individuals using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's death records and the National Death Index.

They then tracked their survival about 16 years later. Stanford researchers found that individuals who had three or more metabolic risk factors and slept less than six hours nightly were twice as likely to have died compared with those with similar risks but who slept more than six hours a night.

Most importantly, high blood pressure and blood sugar issues were most strongly tied to this increased risk.

Click here for more information on the article in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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Mom surprised with honorary degree after helping quadriplegic son complete his MBA

Courtesy Judy O'Connor(NEW YORK) -- A mother who attended every class with her quadriplegic son so he could pursue his Master of Business Administration (MBA) was surprised with her own honorary degree at her son’s graduation.

“I was just blown away,” Judy O’Connor said of the honor. “I’d been in the trenches with his fellow grad students for two years and gotten to know them so it was really special.”

Judy O’Connor, a retired elementary school teacher, relocated from Florida to California in 2013 to care for her son, Marty O’Connor, who was paralyzed a year earlier after falling down a flight of stairs.

Marty O’Connor was a former competitive athlete who had a promising career in sales at the time of his accident. After spending nearly two years focused on his physical recovery, Marty O’Connor said he was ready for a new challenge.

“After a certain point I realized that physical therapy wasn’t going to be the end all answer,” Marty O’Connor, 29, told ABC News. “I was ready to take on another mental challenge.”

When Marty O’Connor decided to pursue an MBA degree at Chapman University, in Orange, California, his mom was right by his side.

Judy O’Connor attended every class, tutoring session, group study session and more with her son over the course of his two-year MBA program. When Marty O’Connor had a question in class, it was his mother who raised her hand for him.

Judy O’Connor also took notes and wrote test answers for her son, who uses an iPad, laptop, voice recognition software and a mouth stick to communicate.

“I did it willingly,” said Judy O’Connor, who has an undergraduate degree from Notre Dame. “When a spinal cord injury happens, you want to swoop in and make everything better and you can’t.”

She continued, “This was something that I could do for my son and I was really happy that I was able to help him in that way.”

Judy O’Connor said she watched a “total transformation” of her son as he redefined his future through his education. Marty O’Connor excelled in the MBA program, making it into the Beta Gamma Sigma honor society and receiving the business school’s nomination for Chapman’s outstanding graduate student award.

While being recognized for his accomplishments earlier this year, Marty O’Connor had the chance to meet with Chapman University president Daniele Struppa. During that meeting, he made a formal nomination for his mom to receive an honorary MBA.

“When Marty came to me asking if Chapman could present an honorary degree to his mom – and to keep it a surprise – there was no hesitation to make this happen,” Struppa said in a statement to ABC News. “The provost, the dean and the faculty senate immediately approved my request. The dedication from both Marty and his mother in his pursuit for a Master’s in Business Administration is nothing short of admirable. We were more than happy to make this happen.”

After months of planning in secret with school officials, Marty O’Connor watched as his mom was surprised at his graduation last Saturday.

O’Connor stood behind her son’s wheelchair until a school official pulled her to the front and handed her an honorary degree.

The graduation announcer choked up while describing why O'Connor deserved the award. Afterward Judy O’Connor blew a kiss to the crowd that gave her a standing ovation.

"I was so touched that my son would do that," she said. "It was therapeutic for me to do what I did.”

Marty O’Connor has already secured a job as the head of corporate sponsorships for a youth action sports startup called DIVERTcity. He is still working out the logistics but plans to have a professional assistant help him in his new career.

O’Connor will continue as her son’s primary caregiver and may start tutoring again.

Both mother and son say their graduate school journey changed their lives for the better.

“We really formed such a great bond,” Marty O’Connor said. “I learned to be patient, more thoughtful and to ask for help.”

He continued, “We were able to accomplish so much more together than if I had just tried to muscle through it on my own. We were just able to do some great things together.”

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Preschool teacher to give kidney to student’s father: 'She's giving me a second chance at life'

Darreld Petersen; Nancy Bleuer(NEW YORK) -- An Iowa dad will undergo a life-saving transplant thanks to his son's teacher.

Darreld Petersen, 34, will receive a kidney from Nancy Bleuer, 54, who is donating her organ to him on June 1.

"It's just amazing," Petersen of Mason City, Iowa, told ABC News. "There are people waiting every day for a kidney, for an organ in general. I wish there were more people like her. She's giving me a second chance at life."

Petersen, dad to 4-year-old Camden, said he learned in January that he had renal kidney failure and went on dialysis.

"It wasn't until I ended up going to the ER and my doctor, the next day during a follow up .. she noticed that my hemoglobin count was extremely low," Petersen recalled. "They did a biopsy that showed 20 percent [kidney] function."

Nancy Bleuer, an educator at Washington Charlie Brown Preschool & Childcare in Mason City, told ABC News that when she heard about Petersen's health issues, she volunteered to be tested as a possible donor. Soon after, she learned she was a match.

"I was really excited about it," Bleuer said. "I was ecstatic. I don't know what I would've done for closure if I wasn't [a match]."

Bleuer said Petersen was extremely grateful for her selfless gift.

"Here was Darreld [Petersen] and his son with a dozen huge roses and I'm crying but of course, it was very nice," she added. "The day he found out, I said, 'We're on, it's a go.' Then, he came over and hugged me and he said, 'Oh my gosh.'

She went on, "It was a very cool response and it's good to know that I'll be able to go to Camden's high school graduation one day and talk about this and think, 'Well, that was crazy.'"

Petersen and Bleuer will have surgery at University of Iowa Hospital next month.

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Girl pulled into harbor by sea lion treated for rare 'seal finger' disease

Hemera/Thinkstock(VANCOUVER, British Columbia) — A girl who was pulled into a Canada harbor by a sea lion is receiving medical treatment over concerns her broken skin could have been infected by a dangerous bacteria from the animal's mouth, according to officials at the Vancouver aquarium.

A video that has gone viral showed the young girl pulled into the water after a sea lion grabbed her white dress. The girl, along with a man who jumped into help her, were quickly pulled to safety. But marine life experts warned they could have been exposed to a rare infection sometimes called "seal finger" from the encounter.

The family contacted the Vancouver Aquarium for help, after one of the facility's mammal trainers spoke about the condition during several interviews over the weekend, according to aquarium spokeswoman Deana Lancaster

"The family saw the media reports and got in touch with us. She did get a superficial wound and she’s going to get the right treatment," Lancaster told ABC News.

Seal finger infections are caused by different kinds of Mycoplasma bacteria, which live naturally in the mouths of sea mammals like seals and sea lions, according to a 2009 published case report. Exposure via a cut in the skin can often result in cellulitis or a soft-tissue infection and untreated infections that become severe can lead to loss of fingers or limbs.

"If any member of our animal care team receives a bite from a sea or sea lion, they take a letter from our vet with them to the hospital, which explains that the infection is resistant to some antibiotics," Lancaster told ABC News, explaining the condition can be "painful and potentially debilitating."

The infection which has also been called "spekk-finger," which means blubber-finger in Norwegian, can be tricky to treat. Mycoplasma bacteria are the smallest form of bacteria and do not have a cell wall, which is the primary target for many antibiotics like penicillin.

Other types of antibiotics, including tetracycline, can be used to treat the infection if it is diagnosed properly. Prior to antibiotic treatment, many seal hunters would risk losing fingers or hands to the disease.

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Foster parent shortage dire as heroin overdoses rise

Melissa Nathan Cutchin(WASHINGTON) — The opioid epidemic that has hit communities across the country with overdoses and crime is having another, less visible but significant impact: overloading the foster care system with children taken from the homes of suspected drug users.

A rising number of children are being removed from homes across the country where caretakers have been accused of using opiates, according to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), taxing foster care systems that are ill-equipped to take in so many children in such a short period of time.

In a policy brief from July 2016 titled "Families in Crisis," the HRSA stated that the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Health Services “is concerned that the opioid crisis could exacerbate child abuse and neglect given that we’re seeing a link nationally. State child welfare systems have reported that they are experiencing an increase in families coming to their attention with substance use problems impacting their ability to safely parent.”

One Florida community has been hit particularly hard by this phenomenon.

Kathryn Shea, a licensed clinical social worker and president of the Florida Center for Early Childhood, told ABC News the problem is especially acute in Florida’s Judicial Circuit 12, which includes Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties.

“The little ones in foster care are coming in enormous rates right now because of their parents’ heroin addictions,” she said.

In July 2015, this circuit administered a record 281 doses of Narcan (naloxone), an opiate antidote that blocks the effects of opioids and reverses an overdose, a number confirmed by the Florida Department of Children and Families. But then came July 2016, when the number of doses more than doubled to 749.

Changes in the law in 2012 on opioid prescriptions and the creation of the prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) shut down clinics and forced many addicts to the streets to find their next high, creating a demand for drugs like heroin and the increasingly popular fentanyl, according to Capt. Todd Michael Shear of the Special Investigations Division at the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

“Synthetic opioids have now driven the cost of heroin down,” Shear said. “A hit of heroin typically goes for approximately $15 on the streets. An opioid pill goes for $30 plus.”

Simultaneously, Circuit 12 has also seen an increase in the number of children removed from their homes and placed in foster care.

"For Circuit 12, we have had the highest child removal rate over the last three years," Brena Slater, vice president of the Safe Children’s Coalition, told ABC News. "The main issue has been due to the substance abuse ... it started out a couple of years ago as pills and we've seen an enormous progression into heroin."

Florida foster homes are only licensed to house five children at a time, a cap that is often exceeded in Florida’s Circuit 12, according to Shea, the licensed clinical social worker.

Connie Keehner, child protective investigation supervisor for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, said, “Our foster care homes are so saturated, we just don’t have enough left.”

There are only 159 foster homes registered in Circuit 12, Slater, of the Safe Children Coalition, said. But between 2013 and 2014, the Florida Department of Children and Families removed 395 children from their homes in the area.

The state removed 880 the next month, more than double.

After children have been removed from their homes, parents have about 12 months to work a case plan; the national standard is that 75.2 percent of children should be reunified with their parents within the year.

While recovery and reunification are the ultimate goal, the risk of relapse is a very real possibility, Shea told ABC News.

The shortage of foster parents and homes in the area stems from a variety of reasons, Shea explained. It is a long and difficult process filled with home studies, classes and background checks to, ultimately, be approved. The pay is low at $417 a month per child, and many of the children display aggressive behavior or require special needs care.

There is also the fear of attachment, bonding so much with the child and then having to say goodbye when it comes time for reunification or permanent placement.

But Florida seems to be making some progress toward easing the stress placed on foster homes and foster parents with an initiative called Early Childhood Court (ECC).

With the ECC model, the goal is to place children in permanent homes more quickly -- whether that is through adoption or reunification -- particularly when it comes to child welfare cases involving children younger than 3.

A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that the longer a baby or toddler lingers in foster care, the greater the chances they could become developmentally delayed. To that end, an infant mental health therapist skilled in child-parent psychotherapy is immediately assigned to the family, parents are also required to stand in front of a judge monthly as opposed to every six months, and there is frequent visitation involved with consistent check-ins on the progress of the family.

The model has proven to be successful in expediting reunification between parents and children. According to Florida's Dependency Court Information System (FDCIS), in 2015, the median number of days from removal to reunification for children up to 3 years old in out-of-home care statewide was 280 days, compared with 212 days for children in Early Childhood Court.

Meanwhile, the median number of days from removal to permanency statewide was 518, compared with 360 days for children in ECC.

In the past three years, the initiative has grown from covering two to 17 circuits within the state of Florida. Advocates hope the system will soon be implemented nationwide.

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