Friday, July 10, 2009

Governor’s Fig Leaf IHSS “Reform”

The governor claims his in-home supportive services (IHSS) “reform” proposal to combat fraud will reap 25% in program savings. While he brought forward several county District Attorneys to talk about anecdotal evidence of fraud, his assertions contradict the findings of a recent state audit of IHSS fraud overseen by his own administration. This audit released just last year, found only 1% of IHSS cases involved fraud.

This is just another sham proposal from the governor to gut the IHSS program using fraud as a fig leaf.

Contrary to the governor’s unsupported assertions, the recent audit is an unbiased analysis of fraud in IHSS and provides the best projection for any potential budget savings through reforms geared to reduce fraud.

41 counties performed a random quality assurance review of 23,823 IHSS cases. The review included intense auditing of each case to insure that state assessments are uniform and that errors are minimized. It also checked for fraud or any other inconsistencies. Of the 23,823 IHSS cases reviewed, the administration’s own audit found 1,043 cases (4.3 percent of all cases) where there was some type of red flag that warranted further investigation regarding fraud.

Nowhere did this audit find anything near 25% fraud.

IHSS is a program of in-home supportive care that was established in 1979 to replace other types of in-home care programs. Those of us who have been around a while remember the days when the elderly were forced into nursing homes because there was no other care available. These nursing homes were expensive and care was often at best indifferent and at worse abusive. The cost of nursing home care was astronomical. Similarly, the disabled were warehoused in state institutions, even though many were able to live independently with a little assistance. Decades ago, the people of this state decided the elderly and disabled should stay in their homes and enabled them to do so by adopting programs such as IHSS. Those who forget this history would doom us to repeat it.

The elderly and disabled will not simply disappear when the governor destroys IHSS. Their needs will not go away. The choices they face will be: suffer and die alone or find institutionalized care at much greater expense.

We must question the governor’s intentions when he makes these unsubstantiated claims. What is his true agenda here? For years he has tried to reduce IHSS worker pay. This year, he proposed to nearly eliminate IHSS by reducing caseloads by 90%. Now he has shifted to making unsupported assertions about rampant fraud. And at the same time the governor is making allegations about fraud, he is furloughing the very state workers charged with uncovering fraud and enforcing the rules. Nor did he bring forward these assertions at any time during the month-long process of Conference Committee hearings.

While the governor criminalizes elderly and people in wheelchairs, California’s budget crisis deepens. The Controller just released new figures showing how far state revenues have dropped below projections. In addition, a state appeals court recently held that the state’s shift of transit funds from transit agencies to balance the general fund budget was illegal. Another state court stayed the furlough to State Compensation Insurance Fund lawyers and administrative law judges pending decision in the case-in-chief. The National Parks Service threatens to take over some state parks if they are closed. Medi-Cal providers won a lawsuit in the 9th Circuit challenging the state’s 10% reduction in reimbursements last August and the court ordered the state to repay $111 million.

California burns while Schwarzenegger fiddles.