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Trigger Cuts to IHSS Care Put on Hold

Federal judge Claudia Wilken did not mince words yesterday when an attorney representing California asked her if she would issue a stay, to grant the state the right to start implementation of a proposed 20% cut in In-Home Supportive Services.

“No, I won’t stay it,” Wilken said of the temporary restraining order she issued last month. “The TRO is now the permanent injunction, … but it will be modified. It is appealable, as of now. But no, I’m not going to lift it.”

The injunction means that 370,000 Californians, mostly seniors, will continue to receive IHSS care, while the state appeals the decision.

Trigger cuts, ordered by the Legislature in June, go into effect if fiscal targets aren’t met. The IHSS trigger cuts were due to kick in Jan. 1.

The federal judge ordered the two sides to meet some time during the next two weeks to attempt to resolve some of their issues before Wilken issues the preliminary injunction wording in early March. Both sides seemed to balk at that idea.

“I’m certainly happy to talk to the state, but that may not be possible,” Stacey Leyton said. Leyton is an attorney for the Service Employees International Union, which helped bring the lawsuit along with Disability Rights California. She said the structure of the Legislature’s law doesn’t allow for much compromise.

During the hearing, Deputy Attorney General Nimrod Elias said the IHSS cuts took into account the frailty of many of its beneficiaries. “To a significant extent, the state has done that,” Elias said. “We exempted five types of beneficiaries. About 66,000 people are completely exempt. We said, let’s find the people who are the most at-risk, who couldn’t possibly absorb these cuts. And that’s what we did.”

To Leyton, the cuts were not made based on patients’ clinical needs, but on the state’s need to cut the budget.

“If the state felt … guidelines [to award hours of IHSS care] were not necessary, then they could alter that, or do an individualized needs-based reduction in hours,” Leyton said. “That would certainly be different than what’s being done here, which is just to save money.”

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