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Illinois Medicaid Cuts Could Hurt Nursing Homes

In still tough economic times, everyone is looking to tighten their belts. This includes individuals, families, businesses, and governments. With a new governor sworn in several months ago in Springfield, a new administration is now working with the legislature on the state’s budget for the next fiscal year, and unfortunately there have been proposals to make substantial cuts to a variety of areas, including healthcare. This includes cuts that would directly affect nursing homes, their employees, and their residents. Governor Bruce Rauner had originally proposed a $1.5 billion cut to Medicaid, which pays for health care services for low income people and the disabled, as part of the new budget which would drop Medicaid spending to about $19 billion. Medicaid covers many different areas of health care, including physicians, hospitals, and even nursing homes and long-term care facilities, and states administer these programs even though they are also funded by federal dollars, so states take a keen interest in how this insurance is managed for its own eligible residents. At nursing homes, Medicaid is particularly vital because it kicks in for eligible patients when they no longer have enough assets to pay for care themselves.

Without it, they may very well not receive nursing home care. Under the earlier proposed terms, nursing homes would have lost $216 million. In more recent news, as negotiations have gone on over the budget, there has been a deal to at least cut Medicaid by $106 million for the coming fiscal year in order to put a dent in the overall budget shortfall, effectively reducing reimbursements rates by approximately 16.75%. This would reportedly include $65 million in cuts to nursing homes specifically.

Trying to Ensure Quality Elder Care

The nursing home industry is scrambling and will continue to scramble as facilities try to figure out how to handle the lack of funding on which they so heavily rely. Unfortunately, some facility owners and administrators reportedly believe that due to the lack of funding, they will have to cut jobs or possibly even close down their facilities. Facilities with proportionately high numbers of Medicaid-insured residents. According to one local article, for example, half of the more than 1,000 nursing home residents in Rock Island County are insured by Medicaid. Beyond the potential effects on facilities and employees’ paychecks and job security, the residents will ultimately take a huge hit. Nursing homes already grapple with issues of staffing levels, and cuts could mean lower staffing levels that may even walk the tightrope of being too low under law and regulation.

Fewer nurses and nursing aides mean less attention to residents, which could in turn lead to incorrect medication dosage or overmedication, less observation of residents who may sustain injuries or develop sores, and less attention to equipment like feeding tubes and breathing tubes. Without enough staff, there could be negligence, or even abuse by overwhelmed staffers having to deal with more patients than they are trained to handle. There is an end-of-May deadline to pass a budget into law for the next year, and it is obviously complicated by the fact that the legislature is dominated by Democrats, while the governor is a Republican. Unless something dramatic happens, the state’s budget may unfortunately be balanced on the backs of the elderly, infirm and disabled. This will be an important news item to follow.

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