April 26, 2012

For Immediate Release

MEDICAID RECIPIENTS SUE TO STOP HOME CARE CUTBACKS

Three disabled Medicaid recipients have filed a class action in federal court this week to stop reductions in the home care services that allow them to continue to live at home. The individuals affected are among the most disabled Medicaid recipients, who all require care at home both day and night, and who have been receiving care at this level, often for many years. The care is called “split-shift” care because it is provided by two attendants, one during the day and one at night.

New York City Medicaid plans to reduce the care provided to these individuals, and to substitute instead less expensive “sleep-in” care, provided by a home care worker who would sleep in the patient’s home over night. The Medicaid recipients claim that while “live in” care could be appropriate for some Medicaid recipients, it is not the proper level of care for anyone who needs assistance both day and night, as they do.

For example, Charles Strouchler, one of the individuals who sued, had been an artist in New York but now suffers from advanced multiple sclerosis. He needs help throughout the night to reposition him every couple of hours to prevent bed sores, assistance with his breathing apparatus, and other needs. He has received split-shift services for many years. The City has determined to cut his services to “sleep-in” care on the ground that the decision to grant him the level of assistance 14 years ago, and every year since, was a “mistake.”

Another plaintiff in the action, Audrey Rokaw, is 94 years old and severely disabled. New York City Medicaid has notified her that her assistance will be cut because she does not need “total” assistance with toileting, since she is able to move and provide some assistance to the home health aide when her adult diapers are changed during the night, even though she is unable to change her diapers by herself. All of the plaintiffs in the case claim that they will have to move to nursing homes if their care is reduced, despite the fact that they have been able to live in their own homes for years with home care assistance.

The plaintiffs have filed the case as a class action against the Human Resources Administration, as well as the New York State Department of Health and the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. They claim that it is illegal to reduce their home care when their medical conditions have not improved, and that the New York City Medicaid agency is using illegal standards to reduce their care even though they still need care day and night. The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from Cardozo Bet Tzedek Legal Services, a clinical program at Cardozo Law School, New York Legal Assistance Group, and Queens Legal Services for the Elderly.

For more information, contact:

  • Toby Golick, Cardozo Bet Tzedek Legal Services, 212-790-0240 ([email protected])
  • Leslie Salzman, Cardozo Bet Tzedek Legal Services, 212-790-0240 ([email protected])
  • Ben Taylor, New York Legal Assistance Group, 212-613-5000 ([email protected]
  • Donna Dougherty, JASA/Legal Services for the Elderly in Queens, 718-275-5352 ([email protected])