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.

###

AARP’s Asian American Pacific Islander Community Honors Denny Chan with its 2018 Hero Award

By | Health Care Defense, PRESS RELEASE, Safety Net Defense, SENIOR POVERTY
Oakland, CA (August 20, 2018) –Justice in Aging is proud to announce that the Asian American and Pacific Islander Community of AARP has honored Justice in Aging attorney Denny Chan with its annual Hero Award.

Every year, for the past three years, the AARP AAPI Hero Awards have recognized volunteers and non-profit organization staff members who work tirelessly behind the scenes serving Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders over 50 years of age. The award was announced on Facebook on August 16. You can watch the winning video about Denny’s good work on behalf of low-income older adults. Read More

Press Release: White Paper Stresses Importance of Oral Health Care Benefit for Older Adults

By | Health Care, Medicare, Oral Health, PRESS RELEASE

Washington, DC 2018 – Justice in Aging, along with a diverse group of partners, released a white paper, An Oral Health Benefit in Medicare Part B: It’s Time to Include Oral Health in Health Care. This white paper is an interprofessional, collaborative effort written and published by leaders in the consumer, healthcare and dental fields, including the American Dental Association, Center for Medicare Advocacy, the Dentaquest Foundation, Families USA, Justice in Aging, Oral Health America and the Santa Fe Group.

With an expected 72.1 million seniors living in the United States by 2030, An Oral Health Benefit in Medicare Part B: It’s Time to Include Oral Health in Health Care, outlines the need for oral health care coverage for Medicare recipients and the importance of it being integrated with, and elevated to, the same importance as the rest of health care in Medicare. Read More

Nursing Home Residents at Risk as CMS Prioritizes Industry Lobbyists Over Residents

By | PRESS RELEASE

June 15, 2018 –Released in conjunction with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, new reports from advocates for nursing home residents show how residents’ health and safety has become increasingly imperiled under the current leadership of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Although a recent federal study found that a third of short-term residents suffered harm, CMS has, since January 2017, began to eliminate, delay, and dramatically reduce enforcement of key regulations that protect residents—and all such actions can be linked to requests by industry lobbyists.

Read More

LA Aging Advocacy Coalition Honors Kevin Prindiville with the LAAAC Champion Award

By | PRESS RELEASE

Los Angeles, CA (May 31, 2018) –Justice in Aging is proud to announce that the Los Angeles Aging and Advocacy Coalition (LAAAC) is honoring Kevin Prindiville with its Champion Award. Every year, LAAAC honors an individual who has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to aging advocacy, made outstanding contributions to the health and well-being of older and adults and caregivers in Los Angeles County, and demonstrated effectiveness as an advocate for seniors and their caregivers. The award will be presented Friday, June 1 at the 9th Annual Summit on Aging at the University of Southern California Ronald Tutor Campus Center Ballroom.

“I’m honored to be receiving this award at this critical time when we all need to be speaking up for and working on behalf of the growing number of seniors in California that are living in or near poverty,” said Kevin Prindiville.

Read More

Beneficiary Advocates Urge Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to Correct Inaccuracies in Medicare & You Handbook for 2019

By | PRESS RELEASE, Uncategorized
Washington, DC – The Center for Medicare Advocacy, Justice in Aging and the Medicare Rights Center sent a joint letter to Seema Verma, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), on May 15, 2018, objecting to serious inaccuracies in the draft Medicare & You Handbook for 2019, and urging CMS to rectify the errors prior to disseminating the Medicare & You Handbook.

Medicare & You is the official government publication designed to provide beneficiaries with factual information about the Medicare program, their choices for obtaining coverage, and the benefits they can expect. Unfortunately, the draft 2019 Handbook includes inaccurate descriptions of the differences between Original Medicare and private Medicare Advantage plans. Without fair and accurate information, older adults, people with disabilities and their families cannot make informed choices about their health care coverage. Read More

American Society on Aging Honors Paul Nathanson with its Hall of Fame Award

By | PRESS RELEASE
San Francisco, CA (March 26, 2018) – Justice in Aging is proud to announce that the American Society on Aging is honoring Paul Nathanson with its 2018 Hall of Fame Award. The Hall of Fame Award is presented to an individual who has, through a lifetime of advocacy and leadership, enhanced the lives of elders through demonstrated leadership on the national level. The award will be presented today at 4PM in the Continental Ballroom during the opening plenary of the American Society on Aging’s annual conference in San Francisco.

“I am honored to receive this award. We at Justice in Aging have been using the law to try to address the most critical needs of the most vulnerable older Americans for over 45 years,” said Paul. “There have been many successes. Unfortunately the challenges continue and have been intensified with this administration.” Read More

Justice in Aging Welcomes Two New Attorneys

By | News Releases
Justice in Aging is pleased to announce that we’ve recently added two new attorneys to our team.

Late last year, Carol Wong joined us in our Washington, DC office as our new litigation attorney. She’ll be working on impact litigation, increasing our capacity to file more cases that protect the health care and economic security rights of low-income seniors. Carol comes to Justice in Aging most recently from the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Employment Litigation Section. Read More