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IHSS Program Avoids Severe Cuts in California Budget

July 11, 2012

California’s In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program was spared deep cuts in a state budget signed by Governor Jerry Brown (D) in June.

Earlier this year, Brown proposed a 7 percent cut to the IHSS program, which provides care to nearly 450,000 elders and people with disabilities in California who have Medicaid. But the 7 percent cut did not survive to the final version of the 2012-13 budget, which Brown signed on June 28.

Another proposal from Brown that would have ended domestic and related IHSS services for people living in shared housing was also rejected by the legislature in the final budget.

Instead, the budget finds other ways to help close a $15.7 million state budget deficit. A health insurance program for children will be eliminated, while a state child care assistance program is scheduled to be cut by nearly 9 percent.

The budget maintains a 3.6 percent cut to consumers’ service hours through IHSS, which was originally passed in 2010.

Additional Budget Features

The California budget also includes two other significant provisions related to home care.

First, the Coordinated Care Initiative, will change the way that California’s “dual eligibles” — people who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid — receive care.

The initiative will shift the state’s dual eligible population into managed-care plans, which the state estimates will result in up to $880 million in savings.

About 80 percent of IHSS consumers are dual eligibles. These consumers fear the shift from a social service to a medically oriented system, but they recognize there may be some benefits. Consumers are monitoring the implementation process and advocating to maintain person-directed services.

According to a press release from SEIU California, which represents many IHSS workers, the initiative will “help California’s most vulnerable population get and stay healthy at home and realize long-term budget savings with improved management of chronic conditions and fewer hospitalizations.”

The budget also calls for California to commit to creating a unified state authority with which home care workers can bargain collectively. Previously, workers had to collectively bargain on a county-by-county basis through local IHSS public authorities.

Unions such as SEIU and other labor advocates support the authority, which will be gradually phased in over the next few years.

How the change will affect local public authorities is yet to be determined. Many consumers have said they fear the loss of their participation in the new structure.

– by Matthew Ozga

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