Local News

Personal Care Services at risk under budget cuts

Posted January 18, 2010 10:14 p.m. EST
Updated January 19, 2010 5:58 p.m. EST

— 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.