Both Dudek and Armstrong insisted that no parents are forced to place their children in a nursing home — remarks that are similar to statements made earlier in the week by Gov. Rick Scott. All the state officials said the program that pays the bills for medically complex and disabled children evaluates the needs of each child individually, and designs a plan of care to meet those needs.
“If there’s a medically needed service, it gets provided,” said Dudek.
In an interview with The Miami Herald Monday, Scott said: “Here’s what’s important to me: … that parents make the choice. They should be the ones that make the decision about this.”
The Justice Department, however, insisted in its report that parents have been denied meaningful choice because the nursing care and other services provided to their children have been cut so dramatically that many parents can no longer cope with their youngsters’ medical needs. “We learned of many instances,” the report said, “of the state reducing or limiting the availability of in-home services that had been prescribed as medically necessary by a child’s physician, without reasonably considering the child’s actual needs.”
When asked what percentage of parents who care for their frail children at home have had their child’s care cut or reduced, Dudek said she did not know, and would provide the numbers later.
Dudek denied additional claims in the federal report: that other states have been far more successful in maintaining sick children in their own homes or other community settings, and that children in nursing homes often do not receive an adequate education, among others.
Last week, AHCA administrators expressed dismay at the Justice Department for the way in which it released the report. DOJ lawyers, the agency said, posted the report on a Justice Department website without first consulting with the state, or allowing agency heads to review all the documents that led to the report, such as transcripts of interviews with parents and inspection reports. Perez’s report, though, followed by several months the filing of a class-action lawsuit challenging the state’s policies and seeking an increase in funding so that parents can bring their children home — or avoid moving them to a nursing home to begin with.
Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee bureau contributed to this report.