In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) has been one of the state's fastest growing programs during the last decade, and both Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and his Republican predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, have tried to rein in costs, only to collide with political and legal roadblocks.
The multi-billion-dollar program is financed by federal, state and local governments and serves hundreds of thousands of the elderly and disabled with only slightly fewer caregivers. The latter are technically local government employees and are represented, in the main, by the aggressive Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The union has fought reductions in the Legislature, in the courts, in Washington and in the streets with demonstrations, picket lines and other tools.
Brown is trying to reduce IHSS costs again in his 2012-13 budget, proposing a series of eligibility and direct cost changes that would, he says, cut spending by 5 percent to $5.3 billion, of which $1.2 billion would come from the state's general fund budget. If implemented, his budget says, the number of recipients would drop 2.5 percent to an average of 422,993.
The proposals include a 20 percent across-the-board reduction in the hours of caregivers, even though a federal judge has already blocked that approach. Brown also wants to move IHSS into managed-care and eliminate IHSS benefits for recipients who reside with their families or other persons.
However, the Legislature's budget analyst, Mac Taylor, is leery of the administration proposals and is suggesting other ways of saving money in a new report.
"We find that the governor's proposal for budget-year savings - the elimination of domestic and related care services for most IHSS recipients who live with other people - raises significant policy and legal concerns," Taylor told the Legislature Monday. "We therefore offer the Legislature two savings alternatives--the extension of the 3.6 percent across-the-board reduction in hours and the reenactment of the reduction in state participation in provider wages - to achieve some general fund savings in the budget year. We think that our alternatives pose less legal risks and implementation challenges than the governor's proposal to achieve budget-year savings."