Mr. Alexander, is partially paralyzed as the result of a back surgery. He cannot bathe, use the bathroom, clean, cook, drive, or maneuver himself in and out of his wheelchair on his own. He lives with his 92 year old mother, who does her best to care for him. He would prefer to remain at home and not have to move into a nursing facility, but he may be forced to because he is one of thousands of people on Florida’s waiting list for home and community based services. Justice in Aging, with pro bono partner Cozen O’Connor, along with Southern Legal Counsel, Disability Rights Florida, and attorney Nancy Wright filed a class action lawsuit against the state of Florida, asserting that the state’s 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.
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.
Lengthy wait times for essential care put lives at risk 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.