Personal care assistants who take care of their relatives face a 20 percent reduction in Medicaid-based payments.
The state can impose a 20 percent pay cut on nearly 7,000 Minnesotans giving personal care assistance to low-income relatives, a district judge has ruled.
The Friday ruling by Ramsey County District Judge Dale Lindman reversed a temporary order he issued last fall blocking the cuts.
The eight home-care agencies that brought the lawsuit opposing the cuts plan to appeal Lindman's ruling, which found that a state law cutting payments to personal care assistants (PCAs) who were earning about $11 per hour in a federal-state Medicaid program does not violate the state constitution or the federal civil rights of the aides.
About 30 percent of aides in the Medicaid program are affected by the cuts, said Tim Plant, executive director of Healthstar Home Health of North St. Paul, whose agency trains and supervises some family aides.
"We disagree with the judge," Plant said. "The law requires unequal pay for equal work, and some of these PCAs are very low-income. They can't afford the pay cut. If they drop out, some of the relatives they care for, with complex physical conditions, will get inferior care from aides who don't have the experience with that level of complexity."
Advocates hope Gov. Mark Dayton will delay enforcement until the end of this legislative session to see if bills to reverse the cuts are approved. Dayton has said he supports restoring the pay to family aides -- which would drop from about $11 an hour to $9.
"As it now stands, the bills to restore those cuts are not likely to go anywhere in this Legislature without a strong push," said Steve Larson, public policy director for Arc of Minnesota, which serves people with developmental disabilities.
The pay cuts originally were projected to save the state $24.1 million over the two-year biennium, but now that is put at about $17 million because of the delay. It was among numerous actions by the Legislature last year to offset a $5 billion budget deficit.
Lindman found that the Legislature offered the necessary "rational basis" for the pay cut when it decided that family members have "moral obligations ... toward helping family members [and] will continue to provide care even if affected by a pay cut."
The pay cut does not take away services from those on Medicaid because if family aides can no longer afford to help, the clients qualify for help from non-family aides, the judge said.
"That's the way it's supposed to work," Plant said, "but in some rural areas there just aren't any other personal care assistants. If the family can't afford the 20 percent pay cut, there may be no other help available."
Warren Wolfe • 612-673-7253