The administration of Gov. Bruce Rauner has halted controversial plans to overhaul a senior care program that would reduce expensive in-home care services to 36,000 elderly Illinois residents, according to the state Department on Aging.
Critics of the plan said Rauner pulled them back after the Democratic controlled legislature passed a budget in July over the governor’s veto that effectively blocked him from radically altering the $1 billion-a-year Community Care Program for seniors.
The Better Government Association highlighted the proposed revisions in a report in May, including plans to replace funding for personal home aids with vouchers for participants to go out for meals at local restaurants, Uber rides, and laundry assistance.
Read The Original Report: Can Ailing Illinois Afford In-Home Care Program For Seniors?
In all, the decades-old program provides in-home living assistance to 84,000 Illinois seniors who might otherwise need to be placed in nursing homes. Most of those seniors are enrolled in the federal Medicaid program, which reimburses the state for some of the cost of in-home care.
But thousands of participants, though of modest means, have enough income to render them ineligible for Medicaid. It is this group that the administration wanted to move into a new program that would offer a lesser menu of in-home help.
A coalition of elderly advocacy groups including the Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter, Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans and SEIU Healthcare Illinois opposed the changes, saying they would have potentially harmed thousands of seniors who live independently but still rely on personalized support to get by.
Now, the coalition welcomes the Department on Aging’s decision to not move forward with the plan.
“We are ready to continue the work of building a stronger Community Care Program that will meet the needs of future again Illinoisans while protecting their health, safety, and dignity,” the coalition wrote in a public statement.
Even so, Terri Harkin, vice president for the home care division of SEIU, said she feared Rauner was not done with attempting to impose cuts. “I think we still have grave concerns given that the governor has fought for so long to implement huge cuts to seniors in this program,” said Harkin.
The administration has not telegraphed other plans for the senior program. However, Rauner’s office has said in the past that, without changes, it expects costs to grow an additional $391 million over the next five years.