A $40 million gap in the budget for senior home care could mean devastating service cuts for Illinois seniors. That was the news following a meeting of the House Human Services Committee on Tuesday where Representatives reviewed the program’s proposed budget. Soon after, seniors and health care workers called on the General Assembly to prevent drastic cuts and payment delays that threaten the future of senior care in Illinois.
From SEIU Healthcare Illinois’ press release:
“A $40 million hole in the home care budget is a serious threat to tens of thousands of Illinois seniors and their families,” said Marlin Hosick, a 73-year-old Pekin resident who receives home care through the Community Care Program. “Cutting a few hours of care a week may not seem like a big deal to number crunchers, but for many seniors and our families it determines whether or not we are able to stay in our homes and near our loved ones.”
The Community Care Program allows 51,000 Illinois seniors to receive the quality, reliable care they need while maintaining their independence and avoiding more costly nursing homes. Enrollment in the Community Care Program has grown steadily since FY02, with caseloads increasing by 9% from FY08 to FY09 alone. A budget gap of $40 million or more means the program will be unable to sustain any growth in FY10 without forcing home care service cuts to seniors.
Last year, the state threatened across-the-board cuts in hours for seniors in the program due to budget constraints, but abandoned them in the face of a groundswell of opposition from seniors who depend on the program.
“The state did the right thing by abandoning their plan for cuts in service last year, but that was only a short-term solution,” said Alberta Walker, home care worker and member of SEIU Healthcare Illinois. “This year, we’re facing the same problem – an under-funded home care budget that will put quality care for tens of thousands of seniors at risk all over again unless lawmakers make fully funding home care a priority.”
“Home care agencies can’t withstand another year of payment delays that hurt our ability to serve the growing number of Illinois seniors in need of care,” explained Sue Bohenstengel, executive director of the Illinois Association of Community Care Program Homecare Providers (IACCPHP). “With an economic crisis and the lingering effects of last year’s delayed payments from the state, we’re already stretched too thin. Cuts to the Community Care Program would put our ability to provide quality home care for Illinois seniors in serious jeopardy.”
The budget should not be balanced on the backs of Illinois seniors. Now is not the time to cut the care they depend on, and threaten the future of care for the tens of thousands of baby boomers who will soon be in need of quality, long-term care.