A new law that cuts state payments for home health care workers who provide care to disabled relatives is being challenged in court.
The lawsuit was filed by a group of home health care agencies, employees and mentally and physically disabled clients. It says the the 20 percent payment cut, made at the end of the Legislature’s special session this summer, is unconstitutional because it only affects workers who care for relatives.
There’s a hearing in the case scheduled for Wednesday in Ramsey County District Court.
And disability officials also say that they’ll try to put this issue on the table if there’s a special session for a Vikings stadium. According to the Star Tribune, Mike Gude, a spokesman for The Arc Minnesota, said:
“If it’s an emergency for us to address the Vikings issue, it’s certainly as big of an emergency to address the pain that these family members are going through,” said [Gude]. “An unfair cut in wages is certainly, you know, as great an emergency as any other issue, including the Vikings stadium.”
In a statement about the lawsuit, Elin Ohlsson, owner of Care Planners Inc. said:
“We understand that the Legislature has an obligation to balance the budget, but we don’t understand why they thought it was appropriate to do it by targeting mentally and physically disabled people who receive needed in-home care from relatives. The fact is, personal care assistants who chose to care for their relatives are already working for wages that barely allow them to meet family needs, and they simply can’t afford to work for less.”
And Neng Yang, of United Home Health Care, sees particular harm in the Asian American community:
“Most of my clients are Asian, and almost all of my personal care assistants care for their relatives. State policies encourage culture care. Why is the State willing to reimburse PCA’s who don’t even speak the Hmong language at 100%, but not relatives who can provide the best care for their loved ones?”
The group filing the suit says state estimates show that the 20 percent cut in reimbursement to personal care assistant agencies for care provided by relatives would mean a savings of more than $23 million in the current biennium. The assumption is that the agencies, when faced with the cut in state payments, will cut the wages of the affected workers by 20 percent.