Healthcare Business News

Fla. agency rejects feds' claims about care of disabled kids

By Beth Kutscher
Posted: September 26, 2012 - 2:30 pm ET

Florida's Agency for Healthcare Administration is defending itself against U.S. Justice Department allegations that it forced families to send their disabled children to nursing homes when they couldn't afford their care.

“Florida cares about kids,” agency Secretary Elizabeth Dudek said in a statement (PDF) Tuesday evening. “Medicaid has a comprehensive medical service package that can accommodate any family who chooses to have their child at home and encourages children to be in the least restrictive setting that can best serve their needs.”

Dudek was responding to a Sept. 4 letter from Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

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The letter states that a Justice Department investigation found “hundreds” of children living “segregated lives,” despite their families’ wishes and in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The law requires disabled patients to be treated in community-based settings, whenever possible.

The Justice Department also charged the state with cutting funds for community-based services—resulting in long waiting lists—while increasing reimbursement for nursing homes that care for children.

The state has vigorously denied the allegations, and said it is willing to meet with the Justice Department to “clarify their misunderstanding.”

“Since this issue has been brought to our attention, the state has acted swiftly to ensure that parents are aware of the service options available under the Medicaid program,” Dudek said in the statement.

The Florida Medicaid program is also facing two lawsuits filed in March in district court in Fort Lauderdale that claim that 250 children are being illegally confined to nursing homes, while another 3,300 disabled children are being cared for at home without the necessary support.

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