More older residents on Medicaid wait list in Florida than any other state, attorney says

By John Sammon | Jan 7, 2019

TAMPA – Six elderly Florida residents are alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in their lawsuit against the state over the length of time it takes them to get in-home Medicaid care.

Approximately 50,000 state residents remain on a waiting list for in-home Medicaid services which can take over three years to access, driving some to enter nursing facilities to get the care they need, a recent posting on WLRN.com said.

“According to national statistics, there are more older adults and adults with disabilities on the wait list for community-based services in Florida than any other state,” Regan Bailey, litigation director for Justice in Aging, a national advocacy organization that fights senior poverty through law, told the Florida Record.

The organization is representing the plaintiffs in the case along with Disability Rights Florida and the Southern Legal Counsel.

The suit filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida contends that patients face hardships without proper in-home services, placing them at risk during a long wait to get the service. Bailey said thousands of elderly residents have died while they were on the waiting list, and in addition to their suffering, it places a strain on families trying to provide the care their elders need.

According to the WLRN posting, Florida has a capped system of long-term in-home care through Medicaid with a limited amount of space, and people are kept waiting to be accepted.

The present system, the suit contends, is forcing elderly residents to enter nursing homes seeking the care they need which is an alleged violation of the Olmstead provision of the ADA, which dictates that people with disabilities and older people have the right to acquire care services in a setting appropriate to their needs, the posting said.

According to Justice in Aging, a majority of people on the waiting list are over 60, with more than half over 74.

“They can spend years on the wait list,” Bailey said. “One of our named plaintiffs first got on the wait list in 2013. The failure to provide long-term care places people at risk of unnecessarily entering a nursing facility just to get the care they need which should be provided at home.”

According to the WLRN report, about 22 percent of Florida’s Medicaid spending for long-term care goes to home-based services, making it among the worst in the nation. The average among states is 45 percent.

Bailey said the system needs to be reformed.

“Florida can address this by increasing access to home and community based services,” she said. “So that people can remain in their homes and in the community.”

The lawsuit asks that in-home care services be increased to handle greater capacity and speed up the waiting period to provide personal care such as bathing, dressing, or assistance using the bathroom.  

 

 

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