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Illinois At-Home Nursing Lawsuit Following State Support Cuts

Another nursing home related lawsuit was filed against the state of Illinois, alleging unfair treatment of residents with disabilities. We can likely expect more of these types of suits as very tough budget decisions are made at the state and federal level. With public budgets deeply in the red very difficult decisions will need to be made–much may hinge on who wins local, state, and federal elections this cycle. Those policymakers will decide how to deal with the financial trouble. Considering that public support for the sick and those with disabilities is such a large share of the budget, certain changes to that support is likely.

But it is one thing to say that financial change might be necessary, and it is another to say that all cuts or rules are fair, logical, or even legal.

Nursing Support Over 21
The critical issues in this latest suit, as discussed in an “Opposing Views” article, is the state support to individuals with disabilities who turn 21 years of age. The argument is that the state”illegally and drastically” cuts support to individuals who need at-home nursing support as soon as they reach 21 years old. It doesn’t take much to imagine what severe cuts have on the lives of these individuals who have come to count on the support to get by each day.

The latest suit was filed in federal court as a class action matter and names a young disabled man as lead plaintiff against the defendant Illinois Department of Health and Human Services. The plaintiff is set to turn 21 years old this month. He is developmentally disabled and is blind. On top of that he faces seizures, severe scoliosis, and spastic quadriplegia.

His mother describes that he need about 12 hours of at-home skilled care a day. This costs about $12,000 per month. Yet, the mother suggests that that alternative–institutionalized care–would cost $55,000 a month.

The Program & Problems
The plaintiff here receives at-home support via the “Private Duty Nurse” program (PDN) Yet, PDN is only available to those under 21. Once the age threshold is crossed the individual generally loses half of their government support. That is because that age triggers a shift to a different state program. That alternative program comes with very steep caps on support. This places local families in a terrible position. They are required to either move their child out of the house and into an institution or try to care for them at home without the resources, often an impossible option which places the child’s life in danger.

Interestingly, the family leading the charge in this suit claims that five other Illinoisans with disabilities have filed similar suits in the past–and won. The complaint also notes that a 2010 class-action lawsuit along the same lines resulted in 23 medical patients receiving interim relief.

Yet, despite these legal losses, the state continues to reduce medical funding to others in a similar situations. That is why this latest class-action suit was brought, hoping to settle the matter once and for all to ensure these individuals receive the care they need.

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