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Florida asks U.S. Supreme Court to resolve case on 'medically fragile' children

Mark Sherman

Florida is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a long-running legal battle that stemmed from concerns about “medically fragile” children being placed in nursing homes.

Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office last week filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to resolve the dispute. The petition came after a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2019 backed the U.S. Department of Justice’s authority to pursue a lawsuit under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

The full Atlanta-based appeals court declined in December 2021 to take up the case, prompting Florida to go to the Supreme Court.

The issue of care for medically fragile children, who have severe health conditions, drew attention in 2012 after a Justice Department investigation found Florida was unnecessarily institutionalizing children with disabilities in nursing homes.

The department also said the state’s Medicaid program placed other children at risk of institutionalization. The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, which runs much of the state’s Medicaid program, vehemently disputed the allegations.

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit under what is known as Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. But in the petition filed last week at the Supreme Court, the state’s attorneys argued that the Justice Department did not have the legal authority to file the lawsuit.

“The decision below (at the 11th Circuit), if allowed to stand, will have far-reaching consequences, delegating to the federal government massive power to reshape state policy,” the petition said. “Title II of the ADA regulates almost everything state and local governments do.”

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