Analysis of the California In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Plus Waiver Demonstration Program. Executive Summary


In 2004, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved California’s In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Plus program under the Section 1115 demonstration authority of the Social Security Act. California refers to this program as the IHSS Plus Waiver. Full Medicaid (referred to as Medi-Cal in California) benefits and IHSS Plus benefits are available to all eligible IHSS Plus recipients. The IHSS program began in the early 1970s and was originally funded primarily with state and county funds and some federal Title XX (later renamed Social Services Block Grant) funds. Beginning in 1993, most IHSS services were financed through the Personal Care Services Program (PCSP) optional benefit and California benefited from 50% federal financial participation to cover these costs. However, prior to the granting of the IHSS Plus waiver, some services provided to a minority of IHSS recipients were not eligible for Medicaid federal matching payments. The cost of these “Residual Program” services had to be borne entirely by the state, with county cost sharing.

The effect of the IHSS Plus Waiver is to reduce the state and county share of costs for eligible Residual Program services to the same rates as in the state’s PCSP. About 26,000 persons were receiving all or a portion of their IHSS personal assistance in 2004 through elements of the Residual Program that were to be incorporated into the IHSS Plus Waiver. The components of the IHSS Plus Waiver (i.e., the services not previously eligible for federal matching payments) include:

  • Advance Pay: IHSS recipients meeting severely impaired criteria have the option to receive Advance Pay (i.e., Medicaid funds are paid to recipients in advance of personal assistance service delivery). This allows recipients to assure timely payments to care providers (including any emergency back-up providers).

  • Parent and Spouse Providers: IHSS Plus Waiver permits spouses of adults, and parents of minor children to be paid as IHSS providers for personal care, protective supervision, domestic and related services. Other family members as well as Non-Relative providers can provide similar services under California’s regular IHSS (i.e., PCSP) program.

  • Restaurant Meal Vouchers: IHSS Plus Waiver recipients have the option, under appropriate circumstances, to receive a Restaurant Meal voucher in lieu of in-home assistance for meal preparation and related tasks.

As a condition of granting the IHSS Plus Waiver, CMS required an evaluation. All “1115” research and demonstration waivers are subject to a “budget neutrality” requirement; that is, Medicaid costs under the waiver cannot exceed estimated costs in the absence of the waiver. Thus, the primary purpose of the evaluation was to determine the impact of the waiver on Medicaid service use patterns and associated costs. However, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation also wished to know about availability of and preferences for Spouse and Parent providers and whether IHSS recipients with Spouse or Parent providers (especially minor children with Parent providers) and differences in characteristics, such as medical diagnoses and severity of disability, among those receiving services from different provider types (e.g., Spouse or Parent, Other Relatives, and Non-Relatives).

Changes made to Medicaid law and policy through the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 now make it possible California and other states to offer Medicaid coverage for personal care services provided by “legally responsible relatives” (i.e., spouses or parents/guardians of minor children) without an “1115” waiver. The results of the IHSS Plus evaluation indicate that allowing personal care services to be provided by such previously prohibited provider types is unlikely to increase -- and may even slightly decrease -- Medicaid costs.

The IHSS Plus Waiver was initiated in August 2004. This report documents IHSS Plus Waiver implementation and recipient Medicaid service use in calendar year 2005. Analyses compare recipients having a waiver-eligible provider (i.e., parents of children, spouses of adults) for any portion of 2005 with recipients in the regular IHSS program who received personal assistant services through Other Relatives and Non-Relative providers during the same period. Recipients are classified by these provider types on an “intention to treat” basis. Recipients changing between Spouse/Parent providers and non-waiver-eligible providers are considered throughout the analysis as being in the spouse/parent group. This is analogous to an experiment where an individual enrolls into the innovative care group and later changes into “usual” care, but for purposes of analysis, the recipient is included within the group to which they were originally assigned.

The following questions are examined:

  • Do Waiver recipients differ from regular IHSS program recipients in race/ethnicity, living arrangement (e.g., household size, and availability of legally responsible relatives)?

  • What are the functional limitations, task assistance needs, and chronic health conditions of individuals participating in each waiver component (e.g., Parent providers, Spouse providers, Advance Pay, Restaurant Meals voucher)? Do these differ from recipients in the regular program?

  • Do Waiver and regular IHSS recipients differ in terms of continuity with their provider relationship, and Share of Cost?

  • Are there differences between waiver and regular program recipients in the number of IHSS hours authorized?

  • What are the Medicaid (aka Medi-Cal) expenditures incurred by waiver and regular program recipients? This includes all IHSS services; personal care from Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS) waiver programs; Medicaid hospital, emergency room (ER), nursing home, home health, and medical provider claims.

Taken together, these descriptive questions assess four fundamental policy issues: whether there was a change in the number and attributes of spouses and parents of minors that are paid providers under the IHSS program; whether hiring legally responsible relatives as personal assistance providers seems to be a recipient/family preference; whether Spouse and/or Parent providers performed, as well as the use of other providers in enabling IHSS recipients to remain at home, safely; and whether the employment of family providers has been budget neutral for Medicaid in terms of health care use/expenditures. These policy issues are addressed in the conclusions section of this summary.

Approximately 407,000 persons received IHSS services in 2005. Of these approximately 25,700 recipients had as paid providers either parents of minor children, or spouses of adults. These recipients were classified as being in the IHSS Plus Waiver. Restaurant Meals voucher and Advance Pay recipients combined to include 1,600 additional Waiver recipients. About 60% of all IHSS recipients in 2005 were age 65 or more. Minor children (age 3-17) accounted for about 4% of recipients. The remaining one-third was recipients age 18-64. The distribution of recipients by IHSS Plus Waiver and PCSP providers varied by recipient age group. Parents predominate (70%) as providers among recipients age 3-17. Other Relatives and Non-Relatives are the predominant source (75%-95%) of providers for adult IHSS recipients. About 5% of non-aged adults and 2.5% of the aged IHSS recipients had IHSS-paid Spouse providers. There were only minor differences in these distributions comparing IHSS recipients continuing in the program from 2004 and those entering the program in 2005.

Females are the absolute majority of IHSS recipients, as well as the majority of those cared for by Other Relatives and Non-Relatives. Males predominate as IHSS recipients age 3-17, and they account for the majority of those cared for by an IHSS-paid Spouse. The IHSS program has a broad mix of racial/ethnic groups, with non-White groups accounting for the majority of recipients across all age groups. Hispanic and Asian recipients are more likely to use relatives (parents, spouses, or other relatives) as paid IHSS providers than are White or Black recipients.

The disability/chronic illness profile of each age group is different, as is the distribution of recipients among the types of paid providers used. Because of this most of the discussion is presented by recipient age group.

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