State sued over payment cuts for relatives who provide disability health services

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.

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Kassie Church on 10/25/2011 - 01:17 pm.

    I’m glad someone is fighting this. What a terrible rule. The work isn’t easier because the person being cared for is a family member. Often it is harder.

  2. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 10/26/2011 - 09:26 pm.

    Good grief. Have we no shame? Have we devolved as a society that the government is actually paying people to take care of their own relatives?

    Using that same standard, the government could be paying mothers to take care of their own infants. Oh wait, they probably do.

    My wife and I have been taking care of her blind and invalid 97 year-old mother for 15 years. Prior to that her mother took care of her paraplegic husband for almost 20 years. We wouldn’t have dreamed of asking the government to pay us to do that.

  3. Submitted by Bruce Emmel on 10/27/2011 - 10:19 am.

    The second commentator doesn’t understand how the MN legislature continues to promulgate anti-family legislation. He is probably old school and still would insist that disabled people be locked up. Minnesota has been for years, a leader in supporting elderly and disabled to live in communities and they have done that by working with families. The legislation passed last spring attacks traditional families. These are people who have way more invested than the hourly wage they earn. Many give up careers and lives to help family members. Instead of reducing wages for family members, they should have taken off restrictions for spouses and siblings to provide care. I don’t understand how the MN legislature thinks its right that a couple who are not legally married and have lived together for 30 years can have one person provide PCA care for the other, but as soon as they become legally married they cannot. I’ve seen people get divorced over this and others who didn’t, suffer. The PCA program is the most cost effective way of supporting the elderly and disabled. It’s a great program, lets keep it so and improve it.
    Bruce Emmel
    Home at Heart Care, Inc.

  4. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 10/27/2011 - 01:22 pm.

    Actually, Mr. Emmel, I wouldn’t trust a state-funded institution to care for my relatives. I love them too much to do that. I guess that puts me in the old school minority.

  5. Submitted by Diane Chestelson on 05/05/2012 - 12:15 pm.

    wage reductions

    Im a caregiver to an adolescent who had a traumatic brain injury as a small child. He just happens to be my grandson whom I have been raising since the accident which happend at his daycare. Mr Tester, while I applaud your ability to care for your mother without asking for help, you need to walk a mile in my shoes and of those in similar situations. Many of us dont have the funds to pay someone even with tax incentives to stay with and care for a disabled relative. Often, we have concerns that they will not be cared for or be attempted to be understood by the “paid” caregiver. My grandson is a wonderful boy, but hes big, and strong and has many challanges in regards to behaivor management. While yes, Im his grandmother, Im young enough and love him enough to take this on. I went thru many jobs when he was smaller due to my needing to leave work at a moments notice when he was in crisis.
    I cannot speak for everyone, but the ability to be with him as his caregiver has been a God send! I have much more peace of mind knowing that its me and not someone who wont stick with him because its too difficult.
    Everyone is entitled to thier opinion and thank you for listening to mine.
    Joeys Grandma

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