Wednesday, 29 March 2023

Committee approves bill to establish project for California Independence

SACRAMENTO – The Senate Human Services Committee voted 3-2 Tuesday afternoon to approve Senate Bill 1599, legislation by State Senator Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) establishing the “Project for California Independence.”

The bill would allow qualified aged, blind or disabled individuals to obtain IHSS services at their own expense.

Under existing law, Medi-Cal provides funding for the IHSS program, under which (either through employment by the recipient or through contract by the county) qualified, aged, blind, and disabled persons receive services enabling them to remain in their own homes. Counties are responsible for the administration of the IHSS program.

SB 1599 would require the Department of Social Services (DSS) to establish the “Project for California Independence,” which would authorize certain individuals who are not currently eligible financially to receive in-home supportive services to purchase those services.

The bill would require the Project to be conducted in any county that chooses to participate, and would require DSS to develop eligibility guidelines for individuals wishing to purchase services and to consult informally with designated entities.

Wiggins said that even though California has an increasing number of aged persons, the state has no plan designed to address the health care needs of these individuals. The IHSS program is limited to persons who meet a means test that excludes lower-middle-class individuals and families.

According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the number of Californians 65 years of age and older will increase by 2.4 percent per year between 2004 and 2010, which will result in an increase of more than 604,000 people in this age group in just six years. The state Department of Finance projects that the number of Californians over 65 years of age, which was 3,627,284 in 2000, will have grown to at least 4,526,578 by 2010.

“This explosion in our aging population will devastate California’s health care delivery system unless action is taken to improve our ability to provide low-cost personal care services as an alternative to acute care and nursing home stays,” Wiggins said. “Unique public-private partnerships should be created to effectively and efficiently deliver services to this population.

“California has developed the In-Home Supportive Services delivery system that is, by virtue of its ubiquity and cost-effectiveness, uniquely qualified to help deal with this growing aging population,” Wiggins added. “The IHSS delivery system is a publicly-funded program aimed at reducing costs by allowing people to be cared for in their own home. Making these types of services available to other Californians who do not qualify for Medi-Cal is an appropriate benefit and justification for the taxpayers, who have paid into the creation of this infrastructure.”

Wiggins argued that persons who meet the requirements of the billthat is, they are aged, blind or disabled and have incomes below 300 percent of the federal poverty level should be allowed to purchase IHSS services, “an economical way for them to stay in their own homes, rather than move to settings that allow less independence and cost more.”


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