Appeal Court Nixes in-Home Care Cuts

9th Circuit CourthouseA federal appeals decision temporarily blocks a Washington state plan to cut 10 percent of aid for in-home health care to the disabled and mentally handicapped. This may provide support for a similar effort to block California’s plans for a harsher 20 percent across-the-board cut to home healthcare aid.  In January, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in Oakland will consider whether to extend an order she issued Dec. 2 that temporarily blocked the state from notifying patients that home health care services would be cut 20 percent beginning new year’s day.  California’s move was intended to save $100 million.  California serves roughly 440,000 senior, disabled and blind residents through In-Home Support Services.

But on Friday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a 50-page opinion ordering a preliminary injunction against Washington state plans to cut in-home services.  While the two cases are unrelated they are similar and the case may bolster the efforts of lawyers for the California plaintiffs.

The patients in the Washington case “have shown a likelihood of irreparable injury because the regulation puts them at serious risk of institutionalization,” wrote Judge William Fletcher, joined by Judge Stephen Reinhardt.  Judge Johnnie Rawlinson dissented.

The Department of Justice even weighed in, encouraging the court to block the cut in aid and throwing its support to patients in need of personal care services.

The beneficiaries of the aid argued that the Washington regulation calling for a 10 percent cut violated provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act because the reduced hours substantially increased the risk of institutionalization in order to maintain their mental and physical health.

Washington state, by contrast to much larger California program, covers the cost of personal services for 45,000 people.

Case: M.R. v. Dreyfus, No.  11-35026

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