California faces another budget-related lawsuit today, this time over cuts in services provided to 250,000 developmentally disabled residents.
The Arc of California and the United Cerebral Palsy Association of San Diego want to block a 4.25 percent cut in state reimbursement for services to people with mental or physical disabilities. The groups also want the U.S. District Court in Sacramento to prevent the state from furloughing such services 14 days a year and introducing a half-day billing definition.
"The whole system is just collapsing," said Tony Anderson, executive director of The Arc of California, a Sacramento-based nonprofit that represents and serves people with developmental disabilities.
The groups say the cuts reduce access because fewer providers can afford to care for developmentally disabled residents. Under a draft version of the lawsuit, they say the state has failed to examine the impacts of the reductions, a requirement of the federal Medicaid law.
They also say the cuts violate the state's Lanterman Act, a 1977 law that says developmentally disabled residents have the right to live in their communities and receive care that allows them to be more independent.
Nancy Lungren, spokeswoman for the state Department of Developmental Services, said she could not comment on a lawsuit that has not been filed. But, she said, "Given the size of the budget shortfall, difficult decisions needed to be made. Consumer health and safety remains our highest priority, and California remains the only state in the nation with an entitlement to services for persons with disabilities."
The state has faced similar challenges before on cuts to other Medi-Cal related items, including rate reductions to doctors, pharmacists and hospitals in a case that the U.S. Supreme Court will take up next week. The Supreme Court will rule only on whether providers have the ability to file lawsuits against the state, not on the merits of whether California's prior cuts were themselves legal.
In a separate lawsuit being filed today, school boards and administrators say the state budget should have provided $2.1 billion more for K-12 districts and community colleges. It has become routine in recent years for groups to file suit against state budget actions after lawmakers pursued questionable solutions in tough fiscal times.