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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Florida Caps Services for Quadriplegics

TALLAHASSEE (CN) - Florida's administration of Medicaid for quadriplegics is deplorable and illegal, say two quadriplegic men who were "wait listed" for services. The men, one a former professional athlete, say the state has "limited community-based Medicaid services to 375 people with spinal cord injuries," though more than 600 are on its "wait list."

Plaintiffs Luis Cruz and Nigel de la Torre want to receive care outside of institutional nursing homes. They claim Florida's cap on services violates the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Cruz, 53, a former professional athlete, says he has lived in institutional setting where he "was forced to share rooms and his mental health deteriorated." He lives alone in an apartment where he wants to stay, but needs "some assistance with his daily living," which Florida refused him. He has been on the state's waiting list for nearly 4 years. He once had to sleep on his bathroom floor "for about 36 hours when the person who was scheduled to provide assistance did not show up."

De la Torre, 27, has been quadriplegic since he was shot and robbed in 2007. Florida's Medicaid provides him with two hours of daily assistance, which is inadequate. He is being cared for by his mother, a therapist, but will be without assistance when she moves to Spain in the coming months.

The men say that Florida's waiting list for people with spinal cord injuries increased from 434 to 554 in 2008, and to 605 by December 2009.

They sued the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration and its Secretary Thomas Arnold, and Florida Department of Health Surgeon General Dr. Ana Viamonte Ros.

They want the state's "denial of funding for plaintiffs' necessary and appropriate Medicaid in-home nursing services" declared "unlawful discrimination," and want the state enjoined from denying them Medicaid in-home services "in the most integrated setting," as required by the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act.

They are represented by Jay Howanitz with Spohrer & Dodd, of Jacksonville.

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