CLASS ACTION FILED TO STOP CUTS IN HOME CARE
DHH Forcing People With Disabilities To Be Institutionalized In Order To Receive Care
BATON ROUGE, LA – September 23, 2010
Seeking to prevent nearly 11,000 low-income people with severe disabilities from losing services and being institutionalized in nursing facilities, the Advocacy Center yesterday filed a class action lawsuit against the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) and its Secretary, on behalf of four people who receive Medicaid-funded personal care services.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are four individuals with severe disabilities such as paralysis, after-effects of stroke, chronic heart failure, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis, who have no caretakers and who depend on personal care services for their basic care needs. They currently receive approximately 40 hours of care a week, and claim that the proposed cut to no more than 32 hours per week will make it impossible for them to continue to live in their own homes.
Helen Pitts, age 78, is one of the named plaintiffs. She has osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, congestive heart failure, and lymphedema and lives alone. She uses oxygen day and night, and needs assistance getting in and out of bed, getting in and out of her motorized scooter, going to the bathroom, bathing, dressing and performing personal hygiene tasks. She is unable to prepare meals, do her laundry or attend to household chores, and also needs her personal care worker to take her to the doctor. She currently gets by on 39 hours of personal care a week. She does not want to have to move into a nursing home. “I have seen too many of my friends and family members go into nursing homes, where they do not want to be, and die there,” she says. “I do not want that to happen to me.”
“Long-Term Personal Care” services, part of Louisiana’s Medicaid program, provide the services of a personal care worker to help people who would otherwise have to go into a nursing home with basic personal care such as bathing, toileting and grooming activities; eating and food preparation; performance of incidental household chores; assistance getting to medical appointments; and grocery shopping. To qualify for these services, people must be eligible for Medicaid-funded care in a nursing facility and be found to be at risk of entering a nursing home without the services.
When the program originated in 2003, it provided up to 56 hours per week of personal care services for eligible individuals. In March of 2009, this maximum was reduced to 42 hours a week, and services to many people with disabilities were drastically cut. Last August, DHH announced that it would cut services further—to a maximum of only 32 hours of service a week.
“It is discriminatory to force people with disabilities to be institutionalized in order to receive care that can just as easily be provided to them in their own homes and communities,” said Nell Hahn, one of the Advocacy Center lawyers who filed the suit. “These cuts are not based on a determination of what people need, but simply on a desire to save money in the short term. They represent a huge step backward for the State’s Medicaid program.”
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, seeks to enjoin the cuts in LT-PCS services.
A copy of the Complaint can be found here: http://www.advocacyla.org/tl_files/publications/Pittscomplaint.pdf.
Contact the Advocacy Center for more information on the lawsuit or to reach the named plaintiffs.