Oct 31, 2011

Florida wants to return a $35.7 million grant. Rep. Matt Hudson says Florida doesn’t need the money

By Kimberly Vlach -

Florida Republican lawmakers are proud there are no denials in transitioning people out of nursing homes.

However, just because there’s no one on the state waiting list, it doesn’t mean there aren’t people who can come out.

Many people are healthy enough to leave the nursing home and continue their care at home – but end up trapped because state programs don’t fund certain costs that transitions may require, like a moving van.

In comes federal officials who awarded Florida $35.7 million in a program called Money Follows the Person, covering those gaps left by the state. But the state refuses to use those dollars.

The $35.7 million Money Follows the Person grant could help even more people transition out of nursing homes. In August, HealthyState.org reported on how the MFP grant would help even more people transition out of nursing homes.

The state Agency for Health Care Administration estimates that over 1,700 elders and disabled adults over the five-year period of the grant. A person eligible for MFP funding would receive a maximum $3,000 reimbursement for expenses such as: an apartment application, utility and phone deposits, moving expenses, certain medical equipment not covered by the state, etc. A person under age 60 would be allowed to transition into an assisted living facility under the MFP program.

However, Rep. Matt Hudson (R-Naples), a member of the Legislative Budget Commission which decides what state agencies are allowed to spend, says he voted against using the MFP grant because Florida doesn’t need the money.

“There’s not a single person who’s requested to be transferred out of a nursing home that hasn’t had that opportunity to do so,” says Hudson.

According to the office of the Speaker of the House, Florida serves over 103,000 people each year through state waiver programs while serving about 73,000 people in nursing home facilities.

“Since 2009, no nursing home resident has been denied the opportunity to transition to a waiver program due to any limits on the waiver slots available,” adds Katie Betta, spokeswoman for Speaker Dean Cannon.

While that may be true, there are many more people who can’t apply for the state transition program in the first place, says Gary Martoccio, a case worker for Self Reliance, Inc., a non-profit organization that transitions people out of nursing homes.

That’s because they don’t have enough money to move into a new place, says Martoccio.

Many In Florida’s Nursing Homes Are Trapped

“In one way, they’re not denied, but where are they going to go?” he points out.

Keep in mind that most nursing home patients who are receiving state aid will have exhausted all their assets because of the exorbitant costs of nursing homes.

“A high percentage of our residents don’t have anywhere to go, so we identify them a home or an apartment,” Martoccio explains. “OK, so now they don’t have the application fee. They don’t have first month, security [deposit] – so that’s holding them back. So something as simple as that. But it’s very difficult for them to come up with the funds, and it’s so important.”

Gov. Rick Scott and AHCA are reviewing whether or not to return to the Legislative Budget Commission in January to ask for the release of funds.

This reporter can be reached at kvlach@wusf.org.