Settlement Reached in Suit over Personal Care Services - KALB-TV News Channel 5 & CBS 2

Settlement Reached in Suit over Personal Care Services

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BATON ROUGE - The Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) has reached a settlement in a class action brought by Medicaid beneficiaries of the Long-Term Personal Care Services (LT-PCS) Program.

"Long-Term Personal Care Services," part of Louisiana's Medicaid program, provides personal care workers to help people in their homes. Care provided includes help with bathing, toileting and grooming activities; eating and food preparation; performance of incidental household chores; assistance getting to medical appointments; and grocery shopping.

Beginning in September of 2010, the Department reduced the maximum hours of LT-PCS to 32 hours per week. The lawsuit claimed that this put some people at risk of having to enter nursing homes for care, and therefore violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

While the lawsuit was pending, DHH created a process for LT-PCS recipients receiving the maximum number of hours to request expedited access to the Community Choice Waiver Program.

The Settlement Agreement extends that option to additional class members, who are those LT-PCS recipients that were receiving more than 32 hours when the new cap was adopted, but are currently approved for less than 32 hours. Over the next three months, DHH will mail written notices to all persons affected by the settlement that will explain how to request assistance.

The Community Choice Waiver program provides personal care services as well as a variety of other services that assist people to remain in their homes and communities. DHH will offer waiver slots to class members who apply, if they can show that without the additional services, they will not be able to maintain their health and are at serious risk of nursing facility placement.

DHH will ask the federal government for approval for an additional 200 Community Choice Waiver slots. If any of these slots are not filled by class members, they will be added to the pool of slots that are available to others who are waiting for waiver services.

"Our primary concern is promoting the health and wellbeing of the people we serve in the most independent setting," said DHH Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein. "This allows us to move forward with our agenda to maximize those two priorities. We are committed to right balancing our system of care to ensure people have the best options to remain in their homes and avoid costly nursing home placement."

The plaintiffs in this case were represented by the Advocacy Center, co-counsel Steven F. Gold, and AARP Foundation Litigation.

"This agreement is a positive step. It will allow people whose health would deteriorate because of service cuts to remain in their homes instead of having to be institutionalized," said Nell Hahn, one of the Advocacy Center lawyers who filed the suit.

The settlement "has to be considered a win-win," said Ken Zeller, senior attorney with AARP Foundation Litigation, "It allows people to age in the place they know and love and at the same time saves the state money in more costly nursing home placements."

Preliminary approval of the Settlement Agreement has been granted by Judge Brady of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana; a final approval hearing has been set for February 17, 2012.

A copy of the Settlement Agreement and the hearing notice can be found at http://www.advocacyla.org/tl_files/publications/Lawsuits-Legal/PittsSettlementJan2012.pdf or http://new.dhh.louisiana.gov/index.cfm/newsroom/detail/2381.

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