KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

California Rulings: State Can Cut Medi-Cal Benefits But Not Home Care Wages

"A federal judge on Thursday blocked a $2 hourly wage cut for California in-home care workers that was slated to begin July 1, potentially increasing California's budget deficit by another $98 million," The Sacramento Bee reports. In an oral injunction, the judge ordered the state "to continue paying up to $12.10 in wages and benefits to In-Home Supportive Services workers, according to parties on both sides of the suit. As part of the February budget deal, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature approved a cut to $10.10 per hour – $9.50 in wages and 60 cents in benefits." The lawsuit was filed by The Service Employees International Union, which represents IHSS workers. "IHSS advocates say the system saves the state money because recipients would otherwise use more costly care provided by nursing facilities. But the Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes this year also found that the IHSS program lacks sufficient oversight and suffers from fraud and abuse" (Yamamura, 6/26).

Meanwhile, "The Sacramento County Superior Court has ruled in favor of the state in a last-minute lawsuit that sought to block an attempt to eliminate nine optional Medi-Cal benefits," The Record Searchlight reports. "In his ruling, which affects almost 20,000 Shasta County residents, Judge Timothy Frawley said it was not a violation of federal law for the Legislature to eliminate some Medi-Cal benefits, including adult dental care, in an attempt to save the state money as it faces a $24 billion budget deficit." The suit was filed by two California community clinics and the California Primary Care Association. "The cuts remain effective July 1 and include adult dental, podiatry, optometry, psychology and speech therapy benefits" (Winters, 6/25).

In other California news, "The Schwarzenegger administration has rejected a plan designed to end years of litigation over inmate medical care in California's prison system," The Associated Press reports. "In a letter obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, Corrections Secretary Matthew Cate tells a court-appointed receiver that the state cannot afford the $1.9 billion fix Cate agreed to last month." In 2007, Schwarzenegger signed legislation to provide "$8 billion for prison construction, including $1 billion dedicated to health care improvements." And "the federal courts, which have ruled the care in California prisons is so poor that it violates inmates' civil rights, have threatened to take money directly from the state treasury to fix the system." But "Schwarzenegger said in a statement Thursday that California cannot afford the additional cost" (Thompson, 6/25).

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