In recent news and a recent post in this blog space, it was reported and discussed that new Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has submitted his new budget for the next fiscal year in 2016, and that budget as proposed does not take it easy on certain public services in the area of health care. For one, the governor proposed to cut Illinois’s Medicaid spending by approximately $1.5 billion, lowering spending to approximately $19 billion, and affecting close to 3.6 million Illinoisans who rely on that public health insurance benefit.
These cuts are projected to effectively reduce hospital budgets by 13% statewide which could lead to not only lesser care but job losses at those hospitals. Approximately $216 million would be lost for nursing homes that make those reimbursements for caring for patients on Medicaid. Pharmaceutical expenses would also be cut by around $40 million if this budget goes through, and the budget for substance abuse treatment would decrease by approximately 20% to $99 million in 2016 (down from $124 million). Furthermore, the Rauner budget is overall slated to hit social services hard in general, and estimated to cut approximately $400 million from the Illinois Department of Health and Human Services budget.
Cuts to Home Services
One specific target of cuts is the Illinois Home Services program, which provides in-home assistance for those residents with certain physical disabilities. The budget proposal calls for a reduction of $110 million from that program’s fund. This assistance gives individuals the chance to do things like work and support their loved ones, while leading an independent life outside of the strictures of a nursing home. In general, the program entails workers to check in on patients at their homes in lieu of round-the-clock staff at a nursing facility. This is also consistent with the general growing trend toward community-based nursing care in which individuals can stay at home or in a more community-oriented place and receive the one-on-one attention they need. It is theorized that this environment is more positive and avoids the unfortunate pitfalls at some nursing homes where abuse may occur, or simple negligence leaves residents without the attention they need.
Home Services May be More Cost Efficient
According to some advocates for the disabled, in the case of the Illinois Home Services program it actually may cost the state less to help fund these in-home services, than to cover costs associated with nursing home care, which is a big business and can be quite costly. Under the proposed budget, the cuts would actually be a byproduct of the state changing the eligibility criteria for the program to make it stricter. Disability advocate group Access Living warn this could mean close to 10,000 individuals (or one-third of the program’s participants) will lose that assistance, as also reported in the Chicago Tribune and on progressillinois.com. These same advocates report that Illinois Medicaid saves $17,000 per person each year thanks to the home services program.
Implications of the Cuts
Current participants in the program, if ruled ineligible under the new budget guidelines, may not be able to support their families with the help of the periodic assistance under the home services program. If these cuts are implemented as part of the next year’s budget, it will likely mean less home services care for the physically disabled. It may also mean that patients who are denied eligibility and removed from the program may have to enter nursing home facilities for care, potentially costing the state more money in the long-run, and putting these individuals in possibly less suitable environments. Stay tuned as budget negotiations continue in the capital.
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