More Medicare Cuts for the Disabled

RALEIGH, N.C. (CN) – A federal class action challenges North Carolina’s restriction of Medicaid personal care services funding for thousands of disabled people. The class claims the cuts are not only unconstitutional, but will cost the state money because it will still have to provide some services, but with a 10 percent reduction in federal matching grants to pay for them.

     This is the third such class action filed in the past week. The earlier lawsuits challenge changes to Medicaid services for disabled nursing home residents and disabled people in Rhode Island and Ohio.
     Personal care services (PCS) are provided to elderly and disabled people who need assistance with basic tasks of daily living, such as eating, bathing, dressing and going to the toilet. Under new rules promulgated by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, these services will be terminated for 3,500 to 4,000 elderly, blind or disabled North Carolinians.
     “Under DHHS’s new rules, individuals who reside in assisted living facilities known as adult care Homes (ACHs) need to satisfy much less restrictive criteria to qualify for (PCS) than those living in their homes,” the complaint states. “Most ACHs are large, institutional settings and many are located in isolated rural areas, far from the communities in which the residents would otherwise live. As a result of defendant’s new eligibility criteria, individuals in ACHs with much less severe disabilities and lesser needs will not have access to PCS unless they move to an ACH.”
     The class claims that though its members received notice, “these notices are confusing, lack necessary information, and do not comply with the requirements of the Medicaid Act and the U.S. Constitution.”
     Class representatives include Henry Pashby, 53, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, loss of use of his left leg due to two strokes, and carpal tunnel syndrome; Annie Baxley, 69, who has lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease hyperlipidemia, and idiopathic peripheral neuropathy, among other conditions; and Margaret Drew, 63, whose medical problems include pulmonary hypertension, arthritis, diabetes, vision impairment, heart disease, and orthopedic impairment.
     They and the class seek declaratory relief and injunctive relief for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Medicaid notice and hearing requirements, and due process rights.
     They also seek reinstatement of personal care services that were improperly reduced or terminated.
     They are by John Rittelmeyer with Disability Rights NC, of Raleigh.

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