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Vanessa Barrington

Advocacy Groups Sue State of Florida for Violating the Americans with Disabilities Act

By | News Releases, Newsroom

A class action lawsuit filed today against Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration asserts that the state’s management of its Medicaid long-term care system violates Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. By perpetuating the institutionalization and segregation of older adults and people with disabilities and severely limiting their access to community-based services, the state forces people to unnecessarily enter nursing facilities to get care.

Justice in Aging, a national non-profit legal advocacy organization that fights senior poverty, and Southern Legal Counsel, a Gainesville, Florida-based, statewide nonprofit law firm, filed the suit on behalf of their clients, who are on the state’s waiting list for home-based long-term-care services and are currently at risk of unnecessary and unwanted institutionalization. Disability Rights Florida, private attorney Nancy Wright, and lawyers from the firm of Cozen O’Connor are co-counsel.

“The Americans with Disabilities Act provides that people with disabilities are entitled to receive needed health care in the most integrated setting. Yet in Florida, many older adults and adults with disabilities are stuck on a wait list, unable to get the care they need to stay in their homes, and face having to go into a nursing facility to get that care. This case seeks an expansion of lower-cost home and community-based services and a rebalancing of the long-term care system so people can avoid institutionalization,” said Regan Bailey, litigation director for Justice in Aging.

Florida’s Long-Term Care Medicaid Waiver program provides in-home services and supports for frail older adults and persons with disabilities. Many of these Floridians prefer to remain at home and in their communities and receive help at home with daily activities like eating, bathing, and cooking. But the state prioritizes funding institutional care, and there are currently thousands of people on the wait list for home-based services. As a result, many eligible applicants will die or be forced to move to a nursing home before they get off the waiting list.

“Home and community-based services allow individuals with disabilities to stay in their homes, with or near their families, and remain a part of their community. Such services are integral to maintaining the dignity and humanity of older adults and people with disabilities. It’s no wonder there is such a great demand for these services,” said Amanda Heystek, director of systems reform for Disability Rights Florida.

Lengthy wait times for essential care put lives at risks and cause families to make impossible choices between institutionalizing their loved ones and bankrupting themselves paying out-of-pocket for care.  The vast majority of those on the waiting list are over 60, more than half are over 74, and a quarter are 85 or older. Depending on the level of need and existing support, these individuals could wait up to three and a half years before getting the care at home that they need.  Between July 1, 2016, and March 8, 2018, more than 1,400 people on the wait list had to move to nursing facilities. In this same period, more than 8,600 people died while on the wait list.

“The state can’t say it’s limiting home-based care services because of a lack of funding, because it actually saves the state money for people to receive care at home,” said Southern Legal Counsel Executive Director Jodi Siegel. “Florida’s administration of its Medicaid Long-Term Care Waiver program is therefore not only in violation of the ADA, but also fiscally irresponsible.”

Read the Complaint

About Justice in Aging

Justice in Aging is a national non-profit legal advocacy organization that fights senior poverty through law. Since 1972 we’ve worked for access to affordable health care and economic security for older adults with limited resources, focusing especially on populations that have traditionally lacked legal protection such as women, people of color, LGBT individuals, and people with limited English proficiency. Through targeted advocacy, litigation, and the trainings and resources we provide to local advocates, we ensure access to the social safety net programs that poor seniors depend on, including Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

About Cozen O’Connor

Established in 1970, Cozen O’Connor has more than 700 attorneys who help clients manage risk and make better business decisions. The firm counsels clients on their most sophisticated legal matters in all areas of the law, including litigation, corporate, and regulatory law. Representing a broad array of leading global corporations and middle market companies, Cozen O’Connor services its clients’ needs through 28 offices across two continents.

About Disability Rights Florida

Disability Rights Florida was founded in 1977 as the statewide designated protection and advocacy system for individuals with disabilities in the State of Florida. We provide free legal and advocacy services to people with disabilities through the authority and responsibility of nine federal grants. Our mission is to advance the quality of life, dignity, equality, self-determination, and freedom of choice for people with disabilities.

About Southern Legal Counsel

Southern Legal Counsel is a statewide, nonprofit law firm that works proactively to ensure fairness, social justice and government accountability for Floridians through focused, high-impact initiatives, policy advocacy and civil litigation.

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The Truth About Older Consumers: Household Budgets

By | IN THE NEWS

Stria: The Truth About Older Consumers: Household Budgets (November 26, 2018)

This piece challenges some of the “successful aging” narratives about older adults that are common in U.S. media. The author explores some of the different expenses older adults encounter (such as higher health care costs) that make them vulnerable. The author also acknowledges that many older adults start out as poor, and aging makes them poorer, and that some older adults, such as LGBT older adults, are more likely to age into poverty. The author interviewed Justice in Aging Executive Director, Kevin Prindiville, for insight into senior poverty, who said, “The cost of housing and health care keeps rising. Pensions are smaller than had been promised and some have disappeared altogether. Social Security is a bedrock, keeping 15 million older people out of poverty—but just barely. We have not strengthened or expanded Social Security and it’s not keeping up.” Read the full article.

Justice in Aging’s Letter to California’s Governor Elect Gavin Newsom

By | Statements

Gavin Newsom, California’s new governor, will begin his term among a growing crisis of senior poverty in the state. It will be critical that the Governor Elect create a master plan for aging that includes an aggressive, progressive approach to solve the root causes of senior poverty including high housing costs and high out-of-pocket medical costs, while increasing access to critical benefits that help California’s seniors get the help they need to make ends meet. Justice in Aging sent the new governor a letter congratulating him on being elected and outlining some of the critical investments in older adults we hope to see and work together with the administration to achieve.

Statement: Threats to Transgender Older Adults

By | Newsroom, Statements

The Trump Administration has indicated it intends to eliminate the rights of transgender people by narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth. The move is a cruel, extremist, and transparent political attack on millions of Americans, including transgender older adults.

Transgender older adults face a number of challenges. Key among them are barriers to adequate healthcare, including healthcare providers who lack basic cultural and clinical knowledge, refuse to treat transgender patients, or establish policies that perpetrate harassment and abuse.

Nearly 1 in 5 transgender individuals reports being refused care because of their gender non-confirming status, and higher rates exist in transgender communities of color. This type of discrimination, which compounds over a lifetime, contributes to poorer health outcomes among transgender older adults, with 1 in 3 reporting poor physical health.

The Administration’s plans, coordinated by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice, not only recklessly disregard modern science and medicine, but also the law. Dozens of courts in the past two decades have affirmed full rights and identities of transgender individuals. The plans would roll back established legal protections and only exacerbate health disparities and other challenges facing transgender older adults.

Justice in Aging stands with transgender older adults and others in the gender non-conforming community and joins a broad coalition of civil and human rights organizations to oppose and fight back against the Administration’s plans. Transgender Americans deserve dignity and respect under our law. 

California’s Senior Population is Growing Faster than any other Age Group. How the Next Governor Responds is Crucial

By | IN THE NEWS, Newsroom, SENIOR POVERTY

Los Angeles Times: California’s Senior Population is Growing Faster than any other Age Group. How the Next Governor Responds is Crucial ( October 7, 2018)
The next governor will be confronted with a demographic shift of epic proportions: Seniors will be California’s fastest-growing population. Between now and 2026, the number of Californians 65 and older is expected to climb by 2.1 million, according to projections by the state Department of Finance. By contrast, the number of 25- to 64-year-olds is projected to grow by just more than half a million; the number of Californians younger than 25 will grow by a mere 2,500. The reporter interviewed Justice in Aging Executive Director, Kevin Prindiville, at length for the article. The Justice in Aging perspective on senior poverty was well reflected in the fact that the journalist noted that the state is going to have to grapple with poverty in a different way, due to the unique needs of seniors aging in poverty. Kevin notes, “We get a lot of pressure to come with ideas that don’t have a dollar ask, but we’re going to have to spend some money to solve these bigger problems.” Read the full article.

Older Immigrants’ Access to Basic Needs Programs is at Risk

By | IN THE NEWS, NEWS, Newsroom, SENIOR POVERTY

Dailyjournal.com. Older Immigrants’ Access to Basic Needs Programs at Risk

By Justice in Aging Attorneys Denny Chan and Natalie Keen
When Mary immigrated to San Francisco from the Philippines over 30 years ago, she long dreamed of growing old here surrounded by her children and grandchildren. That dream appeared to be coming true when she happily retired last year at the age of 70, knowing that the process was already underway to welcome her son and his family, currently based in Manila, to join her in California – they had already been waiting for many years.

Unfortunately, however, Mary’s dream would be jeopardized if the Trump Administration succeeds in changing the longstanding “public charge” policy. Read The Full Article.

 

Advocate Guide: Accessibility in Medicaid Managed Care

By | Advocate's Guide, Health Care, Medicaid, mltss

States require managed care plans who serve Medicaid enrollees to establish and maintain an internal grievance and appeal and fair hearing system. As states begin to incorporate new federal regulations into their Medicaid rules, there’s opportunity for advocates to help shape those rules to ensure that older adults and people with disabilities have equal access to the grievance and appeal and state fair hearing systems, as mandated by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (“Rehab Act”), the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”).

Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), Justice in Aging and National Health Law Program (NHeLP) collaborated on a new Advocates Guide to Accessibility in Medicaid Managed Care Grievances, Appeals, and State Fair Hearing. This new Advocates’ Guide, provides guidance on how the federal framework can be made fully accessible to Medicaid beneficiaries who are older and/or have disabilities.

Links to three accessible versions of the guide can be found below.

 

White Paper: An Oral Health Benefit in Medicare Part B: It’s Time to Include Oral Health in Health Care

By | Health Equity, ISSUE BRIEF, Medicare, Oral Health

Oral health is an integral part of overall health. Oral health problems can adversely affect one’s ability to maintain optimal nutrition, self-image, social interactions, and mental and physical health. Oral health problems can lead to chronic pain, tooth loss and serious infections. Poor oral health can even worsen chronic medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

Older adults need timely and affordable access to dental care in order to maintain their health and well-being, yet, there is currently no mechanism for most older adults to access care. Contrary to what many believe, Medicare does not include an oral health benefit. Most older adults cannot afford to purchase private oral health insurance or pay out-of-pocket for the care they need. As a result, 70 percent of Medicare recipients have limited or no dental coverage, and fewer than half see a dentist each year.

A new White Paper, An Oral Health Benefits in Medicare Part B: It’s Time to Include Oral Health in Health Care discusses how a Medicare Part B dental benefit would close disparities in dental use and expense between the uninsured and insured and among older adults with few financial resources and limited oral health education. The paper also details how such a benefit could be structured and the legislative changes that would need to happen before such a benefit could be established.

Justice in Aging’s Statement on the Nomination of Judge Kavanaugh

By | IN THE NEWS, Newsroom, Statements

The stakes are high for older adults with the nomination of the next Supreme Court Justice. We need a Supreme Court Justice who will protect older adults’ access to health care, their economic security, and their right to be treated equally and with dignity in their homes, workplaces, and communities. Congress needs to reject any nominee, including Judge Kavanaugh, who will put the interests of the wealthy and powerful above the interests of the rest of us—especially the older adults in our communities. The American people want a Supreme Court justice with moderate views and who has bipartisan support. Judge Kavanaugh is not such a justice.

Judge Kavanaugh’s record gives us little comfort that he would defend the civil rights of older adults or older adults’ access to health care. He has routinely ruled against older adults in age discrimination cases. The fate of the Affordable Care Act and the consumer protections that are critical to the ability of older adults to access and afford coverage are on the line. Based on Judge Kavanaugh’s record, his confirmation would put protections for 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions at grave risk.

His willingness to defer to the executive authority of the President is dangerous and would undermine the judiciary’s role as a check on unfettered Presidential power. The Administration is rolling back important consumer protections and rights, including for LGBTQ older adults, and cutting access to Medicaid. The next Supreme Court Justice should be someone who will preserve the court system as a meaningful route to challenge these actions, not someone who would turn back the clock on civil rights

For those reasons we oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination and urge members of Congress to reject him as a nominee. 

Justice in Aging’s Statement on the Trump Administration’s Immigration Policies

By | Newsroom, Statements

Justice in Aging opposes the Administration’s continued attacks on immigrant families, as demonstrated in the recent statements and policy actions of numerous Administration officials and agencies. These statements and actions – including the separation or indefinite detention of families – are inhumane, unethical and contrary to our country’s values.

As advocates for older adults, we support policies that welcome and help immigrants in our communities. Many immigrants are older adults. Data from the 2015 census show that 15% of the population 60 years old and older were born outside the United States. Furthermore, many older adults belong to multigenerational families with immigrant adults and immigrant children. Older adults in these families may both rely on other family members to care for them, and provide childcare so other family members can work. The Administration’s choice to misuse our nation’s immigration policies to attack immigrants and their families causes serious and irreparable harm and fails to serve anyone.

In addition, an increasing share of paid caregivers for older adults are immigrants, and many of the immigrant direct care work force are themselves over age 55. As the needs of our aging communities grow over the next ten years, we will increasingly rely on immigrants to provide even more care. Our communities also benefit from the contributions of younger immigrant workers, who pay into Social Security and Medicare for decades, thereby strengthening the financing of these programs for us all.

Instead of attacking immigrants who come here to escape dangerous conditions at home or simply to seek a better life, as millions have done since the founding of the United States, we need to recognize the important connections between immigration and the well-being of all older adults in our communities and advance policies that support immigrants and their families