Florida Health Justice Project issues Advocate's Guide to the Florida Long-Term Care Medicaid Waiver
Miriam Harmatz, J.D., Co-Director
Florida Health Justice Project
Office: (786) 558-4950
Cell: (786) 853-9385
(MIAMI) – Government-subsidized health-care benefits are critical for low-income Florida seniors – particularly those who are frail and disabled – but they can be hard to come by, which is why attorneys at the nonprofit Florida Health Justice Project (FHJP)and Legal Services of Greater Miami Inc. have published a guide for those advocates engaged in helping seniors access long-term care and related services under Florida Medicaid.
The Advocate's Guide to the Florida Long Term Care Medicaid Waiver, made available online thanks to the Florida Justice Technology Center (FJTC), concerns long-term services and supports that are essential to remaining at home or in the community rather than in a nursing home.
“For Florida seniors who want to stay out of a nursing home after they can no longer handle the routines of daily living, these services are critical, but like many Medicaid services, navigating the system is complicated,” said Miriam Harmatz, co-director of the Florida Health Justice Project, a new nonprofit advocacy organization. Earlier this year, the project prepared The Advocate’s Guide to the Florida Medicaid Program.
“These guides exemplify our mission and work,” Harmatz said. “Through collaboration with local legal services programs, FJTC and national partners, including Justice in Aging, we’re providing valuable resources for Florida’s legal aid and pro bono advocates who are helping clients get medically necessary services.” This is the second such collaboration between FHJP and FJTC.
As with The Advocate’s Guide to the Florida Medicaid Program, FJTC took the lead on dissemination by turning both guides into online, interactive versions.
“The advocate community plays such an important role in expanding access to justice, because they’re typically the ones advising and assisting those in need,” FJTC Project Manager Joseph Schieffer said. “We wanted to create something that would amplify their work and streamline the process to find information. Having the guide online makes it easier for advocates to navigate the content and share it with others.”
Long-term care – including both nursing home and community-based care – are both part of Florida Medicaid’s Long-Term Care Program. The new guide, however, focuses exclusively on the part of the program for those living at home or in the community, which falls under Florida Medicaid’s long-term care “waiver.” Under federal law, waivers allow states to provide home and community support services to a set number of people as an alternative to institutional care.
Also known as “home and community-based services,” the covered services are not typically available through Medicare or standard medical insurance, such as personal-care aides and private-duty nursing.
Nationwide, over half of people turning 65 will at some point develop a severe disability or medical condition that will require home and community-based services. Over 100,000 Floridians currently receive services through Florida Medicaid’s long-term care waiver, with over 50,000 on a waiting list.
The guide provides advocates with an overview of the authority governing Florida's Medicaid managed care long-term care waiver and a roadmap addressing basic questions including:
Jocelyn Armand, Legal Services of Greater Miami advocacy director, co-authored the guide with Harmatz, Katy DeBriere, co-director of the Florida Health Justice Project, and Michelle Adams, research assistant.
"The Advocate’s Guide is a much-needed resource for advocates and consumers alike. The guide’s road map helps navigate one of the most complex parts of the Medicaid program. We are extremely appreciative to the Florida Health Justice Project for the opportunity to collaborate on this crucial endeavor,” Armand said.
Anne Swerlick, health policy analyst with the Florida Policy Institute, endorsed the guide.
“This guide is an invaluable tool for Florida advocates seeking to ensure that consumer protection policies are implemented to protect Florida’s frailest residents,” Swerlick said.
Pro bono technical support for the guide also came from other groups, including Justice in Aging, a national organization that uses the power of law to fight senior poverty by securing access to affordable health care, economic security, and the courts for older adults with limited resources.
About the Florida Health Justice Project
A new nonprofit advocacy organization, the Florida Health Justice Project seeks to improve access to affordable health care for Floridians, with a focus on vulnerable low-income populations. FHJP expands the advocacy community’s capacity to resolve individual access issues and educate consumers; identify and address systemic barriers to healthcare; and protect Medicaid and other safety-net programs.