Posted by:  Jennifer A. Johnson

Despite a bill on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk that would block its plans, the Illinois Department on Aging is moving forward with proposed changes to a program that provides care to elderly Illinoisans so that they can remain in their homes. The department’s community care program is designed to keep people out of more-costly nursing homes by providing help with tasks such as cooking, laundry, and bathing.

​Facing an aging population and dwindling state resources, the department has proposed shifting more than half of the roughly 84,000 participants into a new “community reinvestment program.” The new program would cover those who are eligible for the current program based on their need for care but don’t qualify for Medicaid. That’s currently about 43,000 people. The Rauner administration estimates that the change would save nearly $200 million a year by delivering services more efficiently – hiring services to pick up and drop off laundry rather than paying workers to do it in clients’ homes, for example.
But the bill on Rauner’s desk, which was sent to him in late June, would prevent the department from making its proposed changes. It would also codify in state law eligibility standards that the Rauner administration had previously attempted to tighten.
Sponsored by Rep. Greg Harris, (D-Chicago), the bill was approved with strong support in both chambers of the General Assembly but fell shy of veto-proof majorities.  Proponents say the department’s proposed changes could result in more elderly residents ending up in nursing homes, which would cost the state more in the long run.  AARP is focusing its attention on winning the support of the additional lawmakers whose votes would be needed to override a seemingly inevitable veto.
While the department says it will continue providing services to all those eligible for the current program, AARP is concerned that a waiting list could be implemented for the new program if there aren’t enough resources to go around.  Under a 1982 federal court order stemming from a class-action lawsuit, the state is required to begin providing services to those eligible for the current program within sixty (60) days of receiving their applications.
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