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Attorney: Decision Overdue In Suit Challenging Medi-Cal Disabled Cuts

A federal judge is “about to decide” a case with large ramifications for the developmentally disabled community. William McLaughlin, an attorney representing The Arc of California, a national disabled-rights group, said a final ruling from U.S. District Court judge Morrison England is coming “any time now.”

In a Jan. 24 hearing, McLaughlin argued for a preliminary injunction to halt the rate reductions. He contends a decision is overdue.

“We have not obtained any injunctive relief so far,” McLaughlin said, though a federal judge had issued a stay for a period of time. That stay was lifted by Judge England in August, which means providers have been absorbing the cuts since then. And not very well, McLaughlin said.

“Those cuts are in effect,” he said. “What it means is there is underfunding for services for the disabled, and that means reductions in staffing, reductions in salaries and benefits for the staff members who are still working.”

The Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit claims that when hours are cut or programs curtailed, accessibility to care is diminished.

“So quality goes down with the cuts, and consumers who are disabled and their families don’t have the same accessibility to quality service, and this has put them at risk of harm,” McLaughlin said. “You get what you pay for.”

California health officials have said that California is paying more for care for  disabled residents than other states pay.

In an interview when the lawsuit was first filed, Nancy Lungren of the California Department of Developmental Services said that the state — despite budget challenges — is doing right by its disabled citizens.

“California is the only state in the nation with an entitlement to services for persons with developmental disabilities,” Lungren said. “The department has sought out federal dollars and continues to work with our federal partners to maximize participation through Medicaid. Over a billion dollars comes from federal sources for supports and services of persons with developmental disabilities.”

This is one of several lawsuits spawned by the 2011 California state budget. Four lawsuits challenged a 10% reduction in Medi-Cal reimbursement rates. Those cuts are in limbo awaiting a ruling from federal appeals court.

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