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How Lawsuits Can Stymie Some Trigger Cuts

By Sarah Varney

(League of Women Voters: Flickr)

(League of Women Voters: Flickr)

Trigger cuts have been the weapon of choice in many recent budgetary negotiations, most famously as the Congressional ‘Super Committee’ failed to come to agreement last month.

But in California, where Governor Jerry Brown yesterday announced nearly a billion dollars in additional reductions to state spending, that budget gun is jammed, as advocates for the elderly and mentally and physically disabled have managed to thwart the automatic reductions by asserting that the state’s severe cuts — some $15 billion to health and human services since 2008 — are beginning to violate federal law.

That defense has largely been the result of an aggressive legal strategy by disability rights groups, something witnessed recently when the state aborted a plan to eliminate funding for adult day health care centers in the face of a lawsuit by Disability Rights California. The centers offer health care services, shared meals and exercise among other activities and, most experts agree, help keep seniors and disabled people out of nursing homes.

The state cuts are running headlong into the Americans with     Disabilities Act.
But that’s not the only place where state lawyers are busy. Officials in Sacramento are also preparing to defend the recent decision by state lawmakers to reduce what it pays doctors who care for Medicaid recipients before the U.S. Supreme Court. Legal advocates also successfully sued in federal court to stop $100 million in automatic cuts to the state’s home care program for the disabled and frail seniors known as In-Home Supportive Services. A hearing has yet to be set.

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