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State Cuts Elderly Dollars Leading to a Higher Risk of South Florida Nursing Home Accidents

The recent decision of Florida’s Legislative Budget Committee to reject federal Money Follows the Person (MFP) dollars is an outrage to nursing home residents and their families.

“What are Florida policymakers doing to help protect nursing home residents,” writes Brian Lee in The Gainesville Sun. He is the Executive Director of Families for Better Care, a citizen support group dedicated to quality nursing home care.
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Our West Palm Beach personal injury lawyers and Fort Lauderdale elder abuse attorneys are equally concerned about the decisions policymakers are making regarding our elderly population.

Governor Rick Scott and the Legislature recently approved a budget that cut Medicaid dollars for resident care and decreased direct care staffing hours by 18 minutes per resident per day. This is huge for residents who require complete support from their caregivers.

Recent studies on staffing at nursing homes reveal that quality and quantity of staff directly effects care given to residents. This comes as no surprise to families, residents and advocates who have known this fact for years. It seems obvious that decreasing nursing home staff will endanger residents.

The federal government set aside over $2 billion for the Money Follows the Person initiative through the Affordable Care Act to allow nursing home residents who receive Medicaid to have the choice to actually pick where they want to live; either in an assisted living facility, in a nursing home or at home with assistance.

To date, 43 states and the District of Columbia have engaged in various MFP projects making the initiative prominent for increasing service options to consumers. The program permits long-term care to be changed from provider-driven to a “person-centered” model. This is the exact opposite of Florida’s proposed Medicaid managed care plan that would force residents into health management organizations with very few available options.

Most nursing home residents, when asked, would prefer to live at home. The only issue with them staying at home is a need for funding and an organized structure to support their health care requirements. How sad is it that the federal government wants to write Florida a huge check for almost $36 million but our elected officials have said “no thanks”.

These officials claim that the funding will only last through 2016 and the state might have to pick up the tab later. While that may be true, there is an option to ask for unused federal dollars that could be utilized until 2020. Don’t these law makers understand that hundreds, maybe even thousands of nursing home residents no longer have the option to seek health care outside of a nursing home because of their decision?

Florida not only turned its nose up to nearly $36 million it also gave up a sizable amount of unrealized Medicaid savings. In Florida, the average annual cost of nursing home care is $76,777, assisted living facility care is $31,950 and in home health care costs average about $40,000. This means two people could be cared for outside of a nursing home for the cost of one inside a nursing home facility.

Taxpayer savings coupled with a higher quality of life for residents, the Money Follows the Person plan appears to be a win-win for everyone! But whenever there is a winner there is a loser, and the losers in this deal could be the nursing home industry and the insurance companies.

Collection revenues for nursing homes could suffer with lower occupancy rates and the select insurance companies privy to be a part of the managed care plan group would encounter additional competition from alternative care options for residents. This would be a good thing for consumers as it drives down costs and boosts service delivery.

So Legislative Budget Committee, Florida Legislature and Governor Scott, reconsider your decision and accept the MFP funds, perhaps using these savings to restore staffing ratios in nursing homes and preserving quality care.
Brian Lee, Executive Director of Families for Better Care, a citizen advocacy organization dedicated to quality nursing home care.

If you are worried about the conditions in a nursing home in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach or the surrounding areas, contact the personal injury lawyers at Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez, LLC. Call for a free and confidential appointment to discuss your concerns at 1-800-529-2368.

Additional Resources:

Brian Lee: Don’t Reject Funds to Help Florida’s Elderly , by Brian Lee, The Gainesville Sun

State Loosens Regulations on Nursing Home Industry, Which Could Lead to More Cases of Elder Abuse and Neglect in West Palm Beach, elsewhere, South Florida Injury Lawyers Blog, May 19, 2011

Fort Lauderdale Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse a Risk in Nursing Home Chains, Both Large and Small, South Florida Injury Lawyers Blog, January 6, 2011

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