Photo of Melissa Lipnick

Melissa Lipnick

  • Hosted by Florida Health Justice Project
  • Sponsored by The Florida Bar Foundation
  • Service location Miami, Florida
  • Law school University of Miami School of Law
  • Issue area Health Care, Public Benefits/Welfare Reform
  • Fellowship class year 2021
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Melissa (she/her/hers) engages in individual and systemic advocacy at the Florida Health Justice Project to expand access and address barriers to Medicaid home health care, enabling more low-income Florida seniors to stay safely at home and out of nursing homes.

Institutionalization should not be the only guaranteed option for older low-income Floridians living with severe disabilities, but this is often the case. Seniors on Medicaid who require long-term services and supports are able to get immediate nursing home care, but if they would like to access home health services as an alternative, they are forced to go through an extremely complicated process just to get on a waitlist with no guarantee of ever being able to receive these services.

The ability to access home health services, especially for Floridians of Color and immigrants, is critical, as racial disparities in nursing homes are profound.

Growing up between the U.S. and Mexico, Melissa saw the differences in the way aging individuals are treated. Her Mexican grandmother lives in a multigenerational home supported by home health care and family, while her American grandparents spent their last years in a nursing home, largely alone. Melissa believes that everyone should be able to access care that allows them to stay safely at home and with their families.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

In the first year of the Fellowship, Melissa has:

  • Represented multiple individuals in Medicaid Fair Hearings
  • Become a certified Long-Term Care Ombudsman
  • Reviewed over 160 Medicaid Fair Hearing Decisions to identify systemic issues and areas for advocacy
  • Provided advice and resources to social workers, doctors, a law school professor, and other legal aid organizations, often on issues related to accessing services while enrolled in the long term care waiver
  • Presented on issues in long term care at the Florida Elder Justice Conference
  • Created and updated materials on the need for Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) in Miami-Dade County, as well as Know Your Rights flyers for HCBS enrollees
  • Collaborated with approximately 15 groups to expand reach and impact of the project

Next Steps

In the next year, Melissa plans to:

  • Continue representing individuals in Medicaid Fair Hearings
  • Publish narratives of individuals struggling to access Home and Community Based Services
  • Engage in administrative advocacy to address systemic issues affecting individuals applying for the Long-Term Care Waiver

No one should be forced to choose between accessing needed healthcare and staying safely at home with their loved ones just because of their socio-economic status.

Melissa Lipnick /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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