Judge grants reprieve to 372,000 on cuts to in-home care
A federal judge has apparently granted at least a temporary reprieve to 372,000 elderly and disabled Californians who faced a 20 percent cut in their in-home care on Jan. 1.
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken of Oakland issued a temporary restraining order Thursday that prohibits the state from taking any immediate steps to carry out the reductions — in particular, from mailing out notices to all recipients, starting next week. Wilken said a lawsuit by disability-rights groups and other advocates raised “serious questions” about whether the cuts would violate federal health and disability laws by forcing recipients into nursing homes.
That means it’s highly unlikely the reductions can take effect Jan. 1, said Stacey Leyton, one of the lawyers who filed the suit. She said the state’s attorneys had told Wilken they needed to send out the notices next week to start the clock running for cutbacks on New Year’s Day.
The judge has tentatively scheduled a hearing Dec. 15 on a request for a preliminary injunction that would block the cuts indefinitely. Even if she decides the state acted legally and denies the injunction, Leyton and other advocates said the cutbacks probably would be delayed by at least a few weeks. And Wilken’s ruling Thursday contained some strong language suggesting that she might well issue an injunction: She said the proposed reductions would put recipients “at imminent and serious risk of harm to their health and safety” and also risk “unnecessary and unwanted out-of-home placement, including institutionalization.” The state’s only concern is saving money, she said, while in-home care patients face “life-or-death consequences.”
The program, called In-Home Supportive Services, provides care to about 440,000 low-income Californians, including the blind and disabled and those over 65 who need help with daily tasks to live at home. The federal government pays about 60 percent of the cost.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation in June that required the 20 percent cutback in services to 372,000 recipients in January if the state’s revenues fell short of projections, which they did. The law allows recipients to apply for an exemption if they can show they would be at serious risk of being forced into an institution. But lawyers for the recipients say the exemption uses the same flawed standards that Wilken rejected in 2009 when she blocked the state from eliminating in-home care to 36,000 people and cutting it back for another 97,000. ….
Source: San Francisco Chronicle Politics blog, December 1 2011