Dec 5, 2011

APD to charge people with disabilities for their care

TALLAHASSEE, FL (wfsu) - "Those who have, will have to pay at least a
little." That's the essence of a new Florida rule that takes effect the
first of the year. It will require some people who have disabilities to
turn over any excess income they have to help pay for the services they
receive. Tom Flanigan reports there are still those who believe the new
rule will impose too much of a hardship.
It was the last of two public hearings on the new rule at the Tallahassee
headquarters of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, commonly referred
to by its acronym "APD". Agency Attorney Jonathan Grab urged the conference
room audience to be open and honest with their input.
"Any language, particularly specific language, that you guys can help us
with and provide as suggestions any citations I mean basically that's part
of why we're here today to get your input and your assistance with this
The focus of the hearing is a new rule that essentially imposes a means
requirement on certain people who have disabilities. They are among the
thirty-thousand Floridians with developmental disabilities who are cared
for in group homes, foster care facilities, residential rehab centers or
comprehensive transitional education programs. Today, the total cost of
that care is provided under something called the "Home and Community-Based
Services Medicaid Waiver."
But after January first, that will no longer be the case for some eight
thousand of those clients. That's because any income they receive over a
living allowance of just over ninety-three dollars, will be sent to APD to
help defray the cost of the service they receive. Agency Deputy Director
Charles Ball says it's the only way to deal with a harsh reality.
"If you look at the global situation with the APD budget that we have, the
history of the last fiscal year is spending about $120 million more on a
population of individuals than the Florida Legislature has provided funding
At the same time, Ball says, there is a waiting list of some
twenty-thousand clients to get into the program. The new rule, he says,
will help plug the budget gap by around eight million dollars. The
requirement to send APD anything deemed "excess income" upsets Sandy
Dayton. She and her husband have a 21-year-old son who has a developmental
"In reality, because we have worked very hard and we will die one day and
that extra money gives us a sense of security to know that my son will get
extra Social Security because of our hard work but we're gonna give it to
Dayton ended her questions and concerns with a single statement:
"Yes, this is all legal, but is it moral? Just asking."
Stacey Ricketts has concerns, moral and otherwise, too. She's director of
operations for the Threshold Center for Autism in Winter Park and is
responsible for thirty-two residential clients and one in-home client. One
of these clients is 51-year-old "WC" and Ricketts says the new rule would
be particularly hurtful to him and his family. That's because WC's parents
pay his premium for a pre-paid burial plan, which is considered income
under the new rule.
"He gets more than most people do, but his parents want him to be buried
with them. They are elderly; we help them administer his stuff. If you
apply what you're saying in this rule, he's going to be $10,000 in the hole
in 2012. So what am I going to go to his parents and say, I'm sorry. He
can't be buried with you.'"
And Ricketts says service providers like hers could even be in danger of
having to shut down because of the new rule.
"It does cost more than the legislature understands to care for people with
these kinds of disabilities. They need to be educated. So it goes beyond
APD. Maybe APD needs to take the stance of trying to educate them how much
does it really cost to care for an individual?"
But that education will have to wait for the next legislative session. The
new fee collection rule, with whatever minor tweaks are made, takes effect
the first day of 2012.
Tom Flanigan, Florida Public Radio/WFSU-FM (2011-12-02)