Massive cuts to in-home care blocked. For now.
Most of the mid-year budget cuts that Gov. Jerry Brown announced this week will take effect on Jan. 1.
But major reductions to In-Home Supportive Services won’t be among them. IHSS is a publicly financed program that helps some low-income elderly and disabled people receive care at home.
Disability Rights California already has filed a lawsuit challenging Brown’s proposal to reduce IHSS hours by 20 percent. Cutting the hours and eliminating funding for local anti-fraud measures would save the state $101.5 million.
“These cuts are too horrible for us to allow them to go forward,” said Disability Rights attorney Melinda Bird.
The group has asked the federal district court in Oakland to prevent the state from implementing the service cuts or informing IHSS recipients until there’s a trial.
The court’s answer won’t come until Jan. 19 at earliest, the new date for a hearing originally set for this week.
The cuts would affect more than 372,000 people. Those who get the maximum – 283 hours per month – or have certain diseases or disabilities would be exempt, Bird said.
But that doesn’t mean that recipients with fewer hours per month don’t need them, she said. She pointed to Alzheimer’s patients, for example, who might need prompting from a caregiver to eat.
“They may have a smaller number of hours, but those are just as critical to their survival as somebody with 283 hours,” she said. “Neither are going to eat.”
A study released last week by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research showed that Californians with IHSS rely on a “fragile” patchwork of public programs, family help and other resources to remain in their homes.
When even one of those pieces takes a hit, their health suffers, the study said.
Some impacts are obvious, said Steven Wallace, associate director of the UCLA center. For instance, those who have mild confusion face “increased risk of falling, wandering outside and getting lost” when their hours get cut, he said.
That, in turn, will result in more emergency room use, he said.
But cuts could also create what he called “hidden problems” that may take time to surface.
If a caregiver can’t shop or cook as often, the IHSS recipient will eat “more canned foods, which have more sodium, which may complicate hypertension, which a year from now may lead to a stroke,” he said.