Fla. Medicaid patients settle lawsuit with state
Florida Supreme Court exempts nursing homes from records law
The Florida Supreme Court says a state constitutional amendment letting patients check records of past medical mistakes doesn't apply to nursing homes.
The justices ruled in the case of a nursing home resident who allegedly choked to death on coleslaw she was served against her doctor's orders in West Palm Beach.
The decision means her estate cannot obtain nursing home records it had sought for a lawsuit against Tandem Health Care, which owns the facility. The 'Patients' Right to Know'' amendment applies to hospitals, doctors and other healthcare facilities and providers.
Medicare payments halted to more Miami-Dade healthcare providers
Medicare will suspend millions of dollars in payments to dozens of additional home healthcare providers in Miami-Dade after a federal judge ruled it has the power to stop reimbursements to companies suspected of overcharging for diabetic and other services.
The government agency began the crackdown on the top 10 Miami-Dade home healthcare operators in October, citing potential fraud, but one of the providers sued in federal court claiming Medicare exceeded its authority.
This week, U.S. District Judge Paul Huck sided with Medicare, saying the taxpayer-funded program's suspension policy is ``reasonable and appropriate.''
AARP, state agree to plan that could please seniors
AARP and the state have agreed on a plan that requires Florida to spend up to $27 million in the coming year to move thousands of poor elderly residents from nursing homes to community-based programs.
AARP on Thursday announced what it called ``a step forward'' in the form of an agreement in a class-action suit it filed last year against Gov. Charlie Crist's Department of Elder Affairs and the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), which runs the state's Medicaid program.
The lawsuit accused the state of discriminating against adult Medicaid residents with various disabilities by preventing them from moving out of nursing homes into less-restrictive community settings, which cost less money.
Readers offer to buy diapers for disabled girl
Offers to buy diapers for an impoverished Miami man who says he's had to choose between utilities and disposable briefs for his severely disabled daughter flooded The Miami Herald following a story published Thursday.
Dozens of South Floridians have offered to buy diapers, groceries and other goods for Floyd Smith, a 52-year-old unemployed widower who is raising a disabled 16-year-old and three other children on $1,000 a month in Social Security disability and survivor's benefits. Smith's wife of 26 years, Katrina Howard, died of a brain tumor last year.
Some months, he said, he could not make ends meet without the help of his church.
Medicaid cracks down on suspected overbilling in Miami-Dade
State investigators began sweeps this week targeting fraud and abuse in the home healthcare industry in Miami-Dade, aiming to potentially save millions of dollars in questionable payments by Medicaid.
They launched a mission to inspect up to 125 home healthcare agencies, about one-third of all Medicaid providers in the county. The providers bill for unskilled workers who are supposed to help homebound patients with bathing, skin care, medication, wound dressing and other basic needs.
Investigators also plan to question 130 patients and 50 physicians who prescribe their care to get to the bottom of whether the services are needed.
The Associated Press
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The state of Florida has agreed to spend up to $27 million in the next several months to resolve a lawsuit by Medicaid recipients opposed to being forced into nursing homes.
A federal court will monitor the arrangement that requires the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Elder Affairs to improve the way they inform Medicaid nursing home residents about making the transition from nursing homes to community-based programs.
A class action lawsuit was brought in early 2008 on behalf of 8,500 institutionalized Floridians who said the state was illegally forcing them to live in nursing homes when they should be able to live where they choose. They charged that nursing homes afraid of losing money pressured politicians to make it more difficult to qualify for community care.
The agreement calls for the improvements to be made during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010.
It provides the court can order a trial if the state fails to comply with terms of the agreement. If the lawsuit is dismissed before a trial, the state must pay the plaintiffs, which include the AARP Foundation, Southern Legal Counsel and National Health Law Program, $400,000 to cover legal fees and expenses.
Telephone messages left for comment from the defendants were not immediately returned.
Americans who qualify for Medicaid and get sick or disabled enough to require substantial care typically have little problem gaining admission to a nursing home. However, obtaining Medicaid-supported services at home is substantially more difficult and often involves long waits.
Advocates for the elderly and disabled had counted on a 1999 Supreme Court case to change that. The Olmstead decision, as it is known, involved two Georgia women, both Medicaid beneficiaries with mental retardation who wanted community-based services, but were refused and were treated in institutions.
The high court said unjustified isolation of the disabled in institutions amounted to discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. It ruled that states must provide community services if patients want them, if they can be accommodated and if it's appropriate.
Medicaid is the state-federal partnership that provides health coverage and nursing home care to the poor.
Join the discussion
The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. In order to post comments, you must be a registered user of MiamiHerald.com. Your username will show along with the comments you post. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.