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SUIT TRIES TO KEEP CARE FOR DISABLED

An advocacy group files a class-action lawsuit.

Advocates for people with disabilities in Florida want a federal judge to block implementation of reduced service levels that start today.

An advocacy group filed a class-action suit on behalf of about 300 Florida residents with disabilities who are on Medicaid and whose personal care assistance is limited to six hours a day, or 180 hours per month, under the new system.

The lawsuit claims that the change needed federal approval under the Medicaid program, and that the affected clients had the right to a hearing before the changes the state Legislature made.

In April, hundreds of families rallied at the Capitol in opposition to the limits on care, which were made to help the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities cope with a $153-million budget deficit.

Named as defendants in the lawsuit are two agency appointees of Gov. Charlie Crist's.

They are Andrew Agwunobi, secretary of the agency that runs Florida's Medicaid program, and Jane Johnson, secretary of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.

Agency for Persons with Disabilities spokeswoman Melanie Etters said the agency was working on a response to the lawsuit and had no immediate comment.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

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