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IL Lawmakers Considering Controversial Changes to Home Elder Care

Health advocates say Gov. Bruce Rauner's plan to overhaul Illinois' home and community care program could force thousands of seniors into nursing homes. (iStockphoto)
Health advocates say Gov. Bruce Rauner's plan to overhaul Illinois' home and community care program could force thousands of seniors into nursing homes. (iStockphoto)
April 11, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Illinois lawmakers are taking a close look this week at proposed changes to the state's senior home care program that would slash funding by about $200 million.

Advocates for the state's aging population say Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposal could force more than 40,000 seniors and people with disabilities to lose some home and community-based services.

Lori Hendren, associate state director of advocacy and outreach for AARP Illinois, is urging legislators to instead support House Bill 4351.

Hendren says the bill would secure funding for the Community Care Program, while the governor's plan would create uncertainty for some seniors.

"This puts an 80-year-old woman, for example, who was able to live vibrantly and be part of the community, to now have to say, 'If my services are being reduced, what are my options?'" Hendren points out.

Rauner's office argues that his proposed Community Reinvestment Program will keep seniors out of nursing homes while saving the state money.

But groups such as AARP Illinois and SEIU Healthcare say the governor has not laid out specific details on exactly how that plan would work.

Additionally, these groups argue that the governor's changes could force more people into nursing homes, possibly at a higher cost to the state.

Hendren says currently the average cost of Illinois' Community Care Program is $860 a month per person, but the cost for nursing home care is about three times that.

"If we talk about the budget, and we talk about being compassionate and being able to care for our greatest generation, if we have a program that allows them to stay with their family, that is a wonderful opportunity to be conservative with taxpayer dollars," she stresses.

Rep. Greg Harris' HB 4351 is scheduled to come up for discussion in a House committee again on Wednesday.

This comes as the federal government has been urging states to find ways to keep more low-income seniors out of nursing homes.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - IL