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Fla. Health Care Regulators Defend Nursing Home Care For Disabled Kids

In response to a law suit threatened by the U.S. Department of Justice, Florida health care regulators say the state is doing nothing illegal by allowing more than 220 children to live in nursing homes. The regulators at the state's Agency for Health Care Administration maintain that Florida complies with federal law, even though they’re only just beginning their own investigation.  

The Department of Justice says children are being " warehoused" in nursing homes while the state pays more than $500 a day to keep them there, at the same time it repeatedly denies parents' requests for Medicaid to cover comparable in-home services.  But AHCA secretary Liz Dudek says her staff is visiting all nursing homes and will contact parents of all children who live there to ensure they’re happy with their options.

"Maybe there’s some parents out there who don’t know they can contact us, and we want to make sure they’re aware of that and they know about the choices they can make," she said on Wednesday.

But, as two class-action law suits against the state are alleging, parents' choice gets taken away, little by little, every time they're told Medicaid will cover fewer in-home services. 

The justice department has said it will sue the state for non-compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act if it does not make changes to how medically fragile children are evaluated for care. According to the department's letter, the state is required to make sure people with disabilities are treated in the"most integrated setting appropriate to their needs," not isolated from their communities.

Florida health care regulators say they'll formally respond to the DOJ by Friday, Sept. 14.