California’s IHSS Cuts Disproportionately Affect Ethnic Elders

California’s IHSS Cuts Disproportionately Affect Ethnic Elders

The recently proposed budget cuts, particularly those to the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program, will disproportionately affect immigrants and communities of color. Of those people enrolled in IHSS, over 49% of them speak a language other than English at home.

California Budget Cuts Target Ethnic Elders:
Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities May Lose Help Needed to Stay Safely in Their Homes
While everyone in California has heard about the budget crisis that threatens crucial health and social services, less has been heard about the people are who could be harmed.  As a group, immigrants and communities of color would be disproportionately hurt by the proposed cuts.   Data obtained by the National Senior Citizens Law Center show that among recipients of In-Home Supportive Services, one of the biggest targets for Governor Schwarzenegger’s cost-cutting, approximately 49 percent speak a language other than English at home.
In-Home Supportive Services, or IHSS, is a program that provides assistance to seniors and individuals with disabilities so that they can live safely at home instead of in a nursing home.  Under the most recent budget proposals, an estimated 404,000 people would lose services they need to age at home, such as personal assistance with eating and bathing.  Because ethnic elders are more likely to get long term care at home than in a nursing home, cuts to IHSS have a disproportionate impact on California’s racial and ethnic minority families and communities.  More than sixty percent of IHSS recipients aged 65 and older are from communities of color.  In contrast, the majority of nursing home residents are white.
There are no good alternatives for ethnic elders hurt by proposed cuts.  Most people prefer to age at home, avoiding the expense and isolation of a nursing home.  Furthermore, research shows that non-whites in nursing homes do not get as good care as white residents.  And there simply aren’t enough beds in the state to house all the IHSS recipients whose services would get cut off.  Instead, a senior who is not able to prepare and eat a healthy diet on her own, or who needs some help getting to and from the bathroom, will instead be left to fend for herself.  The result will be weight loss, broken hips—and worse.
“These short sighted proposals would cause a health crisis and undermine the stability of thousands of families who currently care for their frail and elderly immigrant parents and grandparents,” says National Senior Citizens Law Center attorney Anna Rich.  “The governor and legislature need to stop trying to squeeze savings out of the most vulnerable members of society.”
IHSS is one of many programs supporting vulnerable seniors that are now on the chopping block due to the state’s budget crisis.  Thousands of older immigrants would be left destitute, unable to pay for housing, food, medicine and other necessities by the proposal to eliminate the CAPI program.  Others will find their already low incomes reduced due to rollbacks to the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.  Recent legal immigrants and other poor seniors who don’t get SSI would lose access to healthcare.  Any of these cuts alone would be devastating; all together the results are truly unthinkable.
For questions, or for additional information about how the proposed cuts to In-Home Supportive Services and other programs will impact particular immigrant groups and communities of color, please contact Anna Rich, arich@nsclc.org, 510-663-1055, ext. 305. 

IHSS provides assistance to seniors and individuals with disabilities that enables them to live safely in their home instead of a nursing home. Yet with the proposed budget cuts, over 404,000 seniors and people with disabilities will be cut off from these important benefits. Immigrants and people of color are more likely to live at home and use their IHSS benefits  for personal assistance care (such as help with bathing and eating) than live in a nursing home. In contrast, however, the majority of nursing home patients are white. As over 60% of IHSS recipients aged 65 and older are people of color, the state’s proposed cuts will have a greater, more devastating impact on these communities and their families.

As stated in a recent article from the National Senior Citizens Law Center (NSCLC) on the proposed IHSS cuts, no good alternatives exist for ethnic elders affected by these cuts.  Most people would rather live at home than be isolated and pay the high cost of a nursing home. Also, statistics show that ethnic elders often receive lower quality care in nursing homes than white elders, further contributing to the gap in health disparities and health care equality. In addition, California does not have enough nursing home beds to house all the people who will be cut off from their IHSS benefits if the proposed cuts go through. This means that people who are not able to pay for or find a nursing home for their required assistance with dressing, bathing, preparing food, etc, will be left to fend for themselves. The results can be devastating to ones health, quality of life, or even their ability to live.

These proposals only offer short-term ‘budget relief’ and would most likely cause a health crisis and undermine the stability of thousands of families who currently care for their vulnerable and elderly immigrant parents and grandparents.

For more information on the proposed cuts, see our recent article:

For updated information on the California budget, see:

This article was edited in part from NSCLC’s article, California Budget Cuts Target Ethnic Elders.

Our blogger Karen J. Fletcher is CHA's publications consultant. She provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare, health disparities and other health care issues. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she serves in health advocacy as a trainer and consultant. See her current articles.