For senior care advocates in Illinois, a state funding increase is a reason for optimism after a prolonged period of government disinvestment marked by a crippling two-year state budget impasse which continues to leave its mark on social service providers. However, advocates for nursing homes and home-based senior care agree there is a long way to go to ensure long-term sustainability for Medicaid-funded senior care programs, especially as the baby boomer generation continues to age into long-term care systems.
“The last four years were particularly hard on our members, and many of them worked with their financial institutions on lines of credit or any sort of loans that could keep the business operational and providing care and services for seniors,” said Liz Vogt, who represents the advocacy group Illinois Association of Community Care Program Homecare Providers.
“Unfortunately, there were several that did close during the budget impasse throughout the state because they exhausted resources and couldn’t continue on. So, the fact that we have a budget and providers are being paid in a timely manner and the fact that there was an increase approved this year are just hugely beneficial to the overall sustainability of this program,” she said.
The Community Care Program, which offers non-medical in-home care, is on one end of a continuum of senior care providers in the state. On the other end are skilled- and intermediate-care nursing homes, which house the state’s sickest and most vulnerable elderly populations.
Other programs include medical in-home services and light or non-medical living facilities. Nursing home advocates from the Healthcare Council of Illinois described the industry as “already in crisis” before new funding was received this year to make up a little more than one-third of an anticipated $649 million industry-wide single-year funding shortfall.
“This money means survival,” Pat Comstock, executive director of the nursing home advocacy group Health Care Council of Illinois, said in a June interview. “Our members are thrilled, but they’re also relieved because these dollars are going to provide some much needed relief from the struggles to survive that members are experiencing.”
The Community Care Program is an age-in-place service that assists seniors in maintaining their independence through non-medical care such as providing meals and other support services. Participants must be over the age of 60 and possess less than $17,500 in countable financial resources excluding their home.
Per the new operating budget, the CCP and all associated services will receive approximately $960 million in funding this fiscal year, up from $870 million the year before.
Skilled- and intermediate-care homes will see an increase of $240 million this fiscal year – $120 million from the state and $120 from the federal government. Of that money, $70 million will be directly appropriated to help nursing homes meet minimum staffing requirements, while $170 million will update the reimbursement formula for support costs such as food, utilities, maintenance and equipment.
According to a study commissioned by HCCI and conducted by the business advisory firm Plante Moran, the $240 million makes up only slightly more than one-third of an anticipated $649 million single-year industrywide funding shortfall caused by inadequate Medicaid reimbursement rates. The number of nursing homes that have closed since March 2014 grew to 23 last month.
The latest three were closed in Amboy in April, Champaign in May, and Bethalto on July 24.