$100 Million in State Health Cuts Blocked

UPDATED — The fate of in-home care services for roughly 372,000 low-income California seniors and people with disabilities may hang with the outcome of a December 15 hearing before a federal judge in Oakland.

California set in motion $100 million in cuts to the In-Home Supportive Services Program that were set to begin January 1, 2012 if the state did not receive the projected taxes to cover the budget.  But last week U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken blocked the law that would have triggered automatic s cuts in $700 million in state spending.

Wilken said the opponents of the cuts had shown the budget cuts, triggered automatically by low tax receipts, were a potential violation of constitutional due process rights.  She ordered both sides back for a Dec. 15 hearing on whether to extend the order.

California would have cut home care clients’ hours by 20 percent, according to the Service Workers International Union, which represents healthcare workers.  This could have sent some elders living at home to nursing homes or board and care facilities, without the vital in-home services.

The cuts were part of a $700 million in state spending cuts Gov. Jerry Brown warned would be triggered if revenue fell short of projections.  The triggered cuts were part of the 2011/12 state budget. 

In November, the state tax revenues fell $3.7 billion below the amount needed to prevent the triggers taking effect, according to projections by the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

The state’s “proposed notices regarding the reduction in most In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) recipients’ service hours and regarding Care Supplements raise serious questions of violations of the federal Due Process Clause,” Wilken wrote.

She also went on to warn that the law allowing the triggered cuts also raises serious questions of violations of the Medicaid law and the Americans with Disabilities Act, “by placing IHSS recipients at imminent risk of unnecessary and unwanted out-of-home placement, including in institutions such as nursing homes, board and care facilities and psychiatric hospitals; by discriminating on the basis of type of disability; and by using methods of administration that will exclude individuals with disabilities from IHSS.”

She authorized the immediate restraining order against the state cuts because of the “serious risk of harm to their health and safety.”

Wilken will hear both sides on Dec. 15 to determine if the order should be extended.

 Case:  Oster v. Lightbourne, C09-4668CW

Photo: California’s Children website

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