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Illinois Medicaid Cuts Could Affect Nursing Home Reform Efforts

Each Illinois nursing home neglect lawyer at our firm appreciates the prolonged struggle on the part of many elder care advocates and supportive legislators to get nursing home reform laws passed in our state. However, we understand that passing legislation is never just a “one-time” win-ensuring proper care and enforcement demands active monitoring of these long-term care facilities.

Unfortunately, many senior care advocates are worried that recently passed Medicaid cuts could do severe damage to efforts to ensure Illinois nursing home neglect and abuse is minimized. The Chicago Tribune is reporting on the story.

The Problem
Illinois lawmakers recently passed legislation that would cut $1.6 billion from Medicaid. The cuts come as part of sweeping efforts that attempt to correct chronic state budget problems. However, the cuts do not come without severe costs. Medicaid funds provide to support to a wide range of Illinois residents, including many seniors in nursing homes who cannot afford to pay for the care on their own.

Last week, nursing home operators agreed to take less Medicaid reimbursement rates as part of the cutting effort. However, in exchange, state officials agreed to set registered nursing level of care standards that are lower than what many had proposed. This agreement took place completely behind closed doors, between only a few top state officials and nursing home industry representatives. The secrecy of the agreement angered many advocates, including some state legislators who called the conduct “totally unacceptable.”

State Senator Jacqueline Collins noted that “they did an end run around the process. It was a disservice to the democratic process. Clout, money, and influence determined the outcome.”

For their part, members of Governor Quinn’s team which worked on the compromise claimed that the agreement was the most logical outcome from a tough situation. They claim that the vast majority of the nursing home reform laws were kept intact.

The Future
Our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers know that it is still too early to tell what the ultimate outcome of this agreement will be. The agreement definitely loosens requirements for proper nursing levels. However, it apparently keeps other staffing level changes and other measures.

Under the current-compromise rule, a minimum of 25% of all bedside care must be provided by licensed nurses, with 10% provided by registered nurses. Registered nurses have more credentials and are better compensation. Elder care advocates and legislators had been negotiating with the industry for months. They previously agreed on a rule where 20% of all care would be provided by registered nurses. However, that old agreement was essentially tossed out the window as a result of this backroom deal.

Unfortunately, this new hurdle for reform efforts is just the latest in a series of hiccups regarding implementation of the overall reform package passed in 2010. The article explains how the law-which sought to minimize Illinois nursing home neglect-is still not fully implemented because of ongoing “rules committee” negotiations. No doubt these latest budget problems and hidden deals will only further delay these long-time-in-the-making efforts to improve the quality of care for Illinois seniors.

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