August 19, 2004
A federal judge has ordered the state to do a better job of providing home health care services to the poor.
U.S. District Court Judge Earl Carroll said the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System was not paying enough to attract and retain workers who provide services for the elderly and the disabled in their homes. That left people without some of the care to which they are legally entitled, the judge concluded.
Carroll ordered the state to increase pay to ensure there are enough qualified workers to provide services to each eligible person. He also ordered AHCCCS to monitor the program and come up with a plan to fill any gaps in service within four hours.
Melissa Richardson of Tempe, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said the judge’s decision is promising.
"I think it’s a good ruling," she said. "It’s been a long process."
Richardson, in a wheelchair with cerebral palsy, scoliosis and arthritis, is entitled to 13 hours of care a day. She’s been struggling to get consistent help for years, and has none some weekends. Richardson said attendants have used drugs, stolen money and left her lying in her own feces.
AHCCCS spokesman Frank Lopez said he believes his agency already is in compliance with at least the first part of Carroll’s order.
He said pay for home health workers has risen 28 percent since the lawsuit was filed four years ago. The proof is that there have not been any complaints lately about lack of services, Lopez said.
That’s because AHCCCS doesn’t have a system for getting complaints, as the lawsuit alleged and the judge agreed, said Sally Hart, an attorney with the Arizona Center for Disability Law, which represented the plaintiffs.
The case involves more than 7,000 low-income people who require long-term care but are supposed to be receiving services in their homes.
- Tribune writer Mary K. Reinhart contributed to this report.