Judge Temporarily Stops IHSS Cuts

A federal judge in Oakland issued a temporary restraining order last week, suspending the state’s planned reduction of 20% to In-Home Supportive Services to 370,000 Californians.

Judge Claudia Wilken scheduled a hearing Dec. 15 to decide whether a preliminary injunction should be granted. The state has the option to move that court date, if it desires.

The judicial action came right before the state was set to send notices to IHSS participants —  most of whom are seniors — notifying them of the reduction in services. The so-called trigger cuts were ordered by the Legislature back in June, to go into effect Jan. 1, if fiscal targets weren’t met in December. Those targets are unlikely to be met.

To state workers, that meant notices of the cuts had to go out a month before the Jan. 1 deadline for implementation. There was a bit of drama, when Judge Wilken made her ruling just a few hours after the two sides filed their cases, according to Melinda Bird, attorney for Disability Rights California, which filed the lawsuit challenging the cuts.

“In 30 years in litigation, I have never had a case decided so quickly,” Bird said. “That’s pretty extraordinary.”

The impending notices — which would have been received in mid-holiday season — made the decision extremely time-sensitive, Bird said.

“We had been surprised the day before, with news from state that they intended to flip the switch and implement the 20% cut,” Bird said. “The state said, if they [started the letter process], they couldn’t guarantee they could stop it.”

So the judge stopped it, Bird said. IHSS hours have already been cut by 3.6%, but another 20% would be catastrophic for seniors in California, she said.

“In our view, these cuts are irreversible,” Bird said. “Once they lose their home care, they’re lost. I mean, if you stop eating for a week, you can’t eat twice as much next week and be OK.”

“The 20% cuts are drastic enough that IHSS providers would lose their workers, so any interruption means [some] people might not get care at all. They could be sitting in their feces for a week, until someone comes and finds them,” Bird said. “That’s pretty high stakes, from our point of view.”

It has been a litigious period for the state Department of Health Care Services. After many months of negotiations in court, the state recently reached a settlement with DRC over the planned elimination of adult day health care services. The state is also fighting a lawsuit brought by the California Association of Health Facilities over the freeze of Medi-Cal rates for some facilities for individuals with developmental disabilities. And there are several recently filed lawsuits — by the California Medical Association, California Hospital Association and others — challenging 10% cuts in Medi-Cal provider reimbursement rates. 

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