One year and three months ago, this blog published a series on the dubious iBudget Florida, the program intended to offer persons with disabilities greater control over their personal subsidies while containing overall state costs.
Unconvinced that the implementation of iBudget was anything but a pair of sheep’s clothing for a big ripoff of APD clients, I offered caution.
“Under iBudget, clients are forced to choose which services they continue on limited resources, a daunting process that has far-reaching consequences,” I wrote.
And this week, Florida judges agreed.
Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal found Monday that APD failed to properly implement the legislatively mandated iBudgets, and to the contrary, carried it out in ways that “directly conflict with and contravene” the program’s intent.
An eight-page ruling from a three-judge panel came down hard on APD, particularly on the mathematical algorithm the agency used to determine individual client funding levels.
The decision acknowledged the difficulty of creating a mathematical formula that can fairly and reliably determine each client’s level of need — but at the same time offered no partial credit for trying.
Indeed, APD clients lost an average of about $7,000 from the level of funding they had previously been able to access.
For families, $7,000 in services translates into innumerable benefits, often including services such as adult day training which enable caregivers to continue working themselves. Or, for others, these dollars could have previously supported speech, physical or occupational therapies — trainings that deliver a lot more in benefit than they cost.
Academic studies suggest that while people generally like being given choices, real satisfaction with a product or service relies on having quality options to choose from. In the case if iBudget Florida, families were presented with just the opposite: the kinds of choices that are hard, disillusioning, or painful to make.
It stands to reason that Florida courts sided with the client in this tough case; and hopefully, families can breathe a little easier now knowing that the program has been exposed for the wolf that it is.