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U.S. Appeals Court Decision Could Prevent California IHSS Cuts

January 5, 2012

A December ruling by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could prevent massive cuts to California’s In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program.

The Dec. 16 decision (pdf) by the San Francisco-based U.S. Court of Appeals did not directly address California. Rather, it centered on 12 Washington State Medicaid consumers who sued the state for its decision last February to reduce in-home care hours by 10 percent.

The Ninth Circuit found that the dozen plaintiffs would likely be forced to live in nursing homes as a result of the 10 percent cut — a violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The court therefore restored in-home services for the plaintiffs.

The court did not overturn the 10 percent cut, however, since the lawsuit was not presented as a class action on behalf of all 45,000 Washington State in-home care recipients.

Implications for California

The Ninth Circuit’s decision has clear implications for another case involving cuts to the California IHSS program.

On Jan. 19, U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken will preside over a hearing to determine whether the state of California can legally proceed with a proposed 20 percent cut to IHSS, which provides care to 440,000 low-income elders and people with disabilities.

In December, Wilken halted the proposed cuts — which had been scheduled to take effect Jan. 1 — because they potentially violated the ADA and the Social Security Act, among other federal laws.

Wilken will have to take the Ninth Circuit’s recent decision into account during the upcoming hearing.

“The Ninth Circuit’s conclusion that loss of hours of home care services exacerbates people’s risk of involuntary institutionalization is very relevant to the case in California,” attorney Stacey Leyton told the San Francisco Chronicle in December.

— by Matthew Ozga

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