Judge halts South Carolina home care cuts

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A South Carolina judge granted a preliminary injunction March 7 against recent Medicaid benefit cuts that could lead to cases of unnecessary institutionalization.

In January 2010, South Carolina adopted a measure capping at 28 the maximum number of hours per week individuals can receive federally funded personal care in their homes.

Three individuals with disabilities filed a lawsuit March 24, arguing the cuts would force them to leave their homes and transfer to institutional settings. Protection & Advocacy for People with Disabilities, along with the South Carolina Chapter on the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and South Carolina Legal Services, filed an amicus brief on behalf of the individuals in September, charging that the cuts violated the integration mandate of the Supreme Court’s 1999 Olmstead decision.

They also countered the state’s argument that the change, approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, can be justified as a cost-saving measure. State Department of Health and Human Service figures show that it costs the state $32 a day to serve individuals with disabilities in their home, compared to $127 in institutional settings, according to an article in the Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina.

The U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina agreed.

“The detrimental impact of the cap is significant, in that it may discourage some individuals from going to or remaining in the community and it may absolutely prevent others from being able to remain in the community,” according to the preliminary injunction. “Such impact creates an inefficient system because it causes, and may encourage, more expensive placement.”

Protection & Advocacy for People with Disabilities is part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.