IHSS is a budget solution, not a budget problem
If we are to succeed in solving our state’s budget problems, we must be courageous, we must be determined, we must be strategic. And above all, we must be smart.
Being smart means eliminating state programs that do not work, that are inefficient or wasteful, or are no longer needed. But it also means maintaining and strengthening programs that both provide needed services and are cost-effective.
A perfect example is the In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program. This innovative program, which has become a national model for home care, was signed into law by Gov. Ronald Reagan as a cost-effective way to meet the needs of elderly and disabled Californians.
There is no question that IHSS saves taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year over what it would cost to care for these people in nursing homes or other institutions. The average cost of IHSS care is about $13,000 a year, while it costs a minimum of $55,000 to $60,000 a year for nursing home care. In addition, IHSS brings in billions of dollars in matching funds from the federal government.
No wonder that the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office had this to say about IHSS: “The elimination of IHSS or a dramatic reduction in eligibility would likely lead to offsetting costs that more than outweigh the savings from its elimination.”
In other words, cutting IHSS is penny wise and pound-foolish, not smart.
IHSS also brings economic benefits to our communities. Allowing people to remain in their own homes means that they and their caregivers contribute to local economies. Cutting the program would be an economic blow to local businesses already struggling to recover from the recession. Why would we want to do that?
Finally, of course, IHSS is humane. It allows nearly a half-million low-income elderly, blind and disabled Californians to be cared for in the comfort and safety of their own homes by people they know and trust. It is obvious that most of them would choose that over nursing home care.
As the population of our state ages, we have to adapt our public services to meet their needs. We should be encouraging them to use home- and community-based care rather than forcing them into institutions. Protecting and strengthening programs like IHSS is the smart thing to do. It’s also the right thing to do.