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Personal Care Services at risk under budget cuts

Posted January 18, 2010
Updated January 19, 2010

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— The state Department of Health and Human Services is being sued by the Association for Home and Hospice Care of North Carolina over its move to cut or eliminate Personal Care Services for some needy patients.

Through PCS, elderly or disabled people are provided assistance in their homes. The assistance includes help with bathing, dressing, meal preparation and cleaning. The idea is to keep people in their homes and out of institutions.

Juanita Branch is among the patients who benefits from PCS. The 75-year-old has diabetes, is hearing impaired, legally blind in one eye, and is a below-the-knee amputee.

Branch's daughter, Lillie Mason, says everyone benefits from PCS.

“It's only with the (PCS) health care that we've been able to go out to our jobs everyday,” she said.

Branch receives 56 hours a month of PCS. She needs help with meals, medicines and shots. But based on the state's new PCS formula, her hours will be cut by more than 26 percent, according her home care agency.

The new formula for determining PCS need takes away the in-person component, according to AHHC, which represents over 700 home care and hospice agencies statewide.

"It's based on paper only. It's not set based on an in-home assessment. Nobody from the state has laid eyes on any client,” said Tracy Colvard, AHHC’s director of government relations.

Under the former PCS formula, a registered nurse would directly observe the ability of a person to perform activities and then determine how much help a person needed.

AHHC says the new mathematical formula, which eliminates some home management tasks, will cause “the vast majority of PCS recipients (to) have their hours of service substantially reduced, without receiving an in-person assessment of needs.”

AHHC says the change is designed to reduce services since DHHS is required to cut almost $1.5 billion from its budget this year. Some of the cuts will come from the Division of Medical Assistance, which operates under DHHS and reimburses PCS providers for services to patients enrolled in the Medicaid program.

In a recent letter to members of the General Assembly, DHHS Secretary Lanier Cansler wrote that the budget cuts are "among the most difficult efforts I have ever attempted. Every decision we make at DHHS impacts a provider or consumer in some way.”

According to the AHHC, the state's new formula will impact 37,600 people statewide. The agency estimates roughly 10,000 patients will no longer qualify for PCS.

A judge will determine Wednesday if a temporary restraining order against DHHS should be extended. The restraining order has prevented DHHS from implementing its changes to PCS.

4 Comments

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  • starr122 Jan 20, 2010

    Bob, It hurts me to know that there are people out there that are so mean toward disabled and handicap people. These people actually pay for this care their whole life by WORKING. I work in the homecare field and I hope that the day never comes that you ever need PCS care. You take away from these people that need assistance with a bath or with meal prep. and you give it to the animals at the NC Zoo that eat meat given to then by the zookeepers but human beings can't even get a can of soup. Please how can you take away from these sick people and build a 25 million dollar pier at Nags Head. We should be going without this pier and taking care of the people who have taken care of us our whole lives. I hope you would care more about your parents than you do other people.

  • joan6 Jan 19, 2010

    Indeed there must be cuts made within the government in order to maintain financial viability for the programs that are truly needed. Unfortunately we are seeing vast cuts to the very programs that need to be sustained and little to the ones that could be cut. As a part of the home care community I see that these patients really need this service, not just want it. If it continues to be cut patients will be placed in more expensive settings. This will not be beneficial for the state nor the patient. I can only pray that AHHC is successful in their efforts to stop these cuts. Our government is a business but a poorly run business. As a business owner before cutting services to my consumers I would look inward to see what changes/cuts I could make to ensure that my consumers were taken care of. Home health care is a way for patients to receive care in the most affordable manner. It is where they want to be and have better outcomes.

  • mom2boys Jan 19, 2010

    Bob
    I work for a home care agency and there are many people who do not have family to help care for them. The ones that do, have family members that work so they can pay bills and we are there to help with the personal care. Maybe you should get all the facts before being so judgemental.

  • Bob3425 Jan 19, 2010

    Branch's daughter, Lillie Mason, says everyone benefits from PCS. She has a job let her pay for the care, cuts have to be made. It not the state place to provide care, it called planning for your future and family. Times are hard and this doesn't benefit everyone.