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Washington State Challenges Caregiver Wage Ruling

May 20, 2013

Washington State is challenging a 2011 Superior Court ruling that awarded in-home caregivers nearly $100 million in back pay and interest.

The ruling stemmed from a 2003 decision by the state to reduce Medicaid payments to recipients who use live-in caregivers.

The reduced rate was in effect from 2003 until 2007, when it was invalidated by the state Supreme Court.

Caregivers then filed a class action suit against the state, arguing that they deserved back pay for the four years they worked under the lowered rate.

A Superior Court judge agreed with the workers in 2010, awarding them $57 million in lost wages. The following year, another Superior Court judge affirmed the previous ruling and tacked on an additional $38 million in interest, bringing the total to almost $100 million.

But on May 14, the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) argued before the state Supreme Court that it is under no legal obligation to pay back the caregivers.

Representing the workers, lawyer John White said that the “DSHS reversed over two decades of practice…under which it paid providers for all services they worked.”

“The bottom line is DSHS shortchanged these people,” White added.

A ruling is expected sometime within the next six to nine months.

— by Matthew Ozga

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