Nursing home residents rally against Medicaid cuts
Because of the high cost of in-home care, Karin Chalifoux has been living at the ManorCare nursing home in Rolling Meadows for the last two years while dealing with the effects of multiple sclerosis.
She relies on a mix of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to pay her way at the nursing home which, she says, offers her much more than a place to stay.
"This is a place I can be and feel like I'm part of something," Chalifoux, 43, said. "The people here are wonderful."
But Chalifoux and her fellow residents fear that proposed cuts in Medicaid funding may lessen their experience, and so they gathered with their families Sunday for a rally to put pressure on elected representatives and the governor.
The proposed state budget recommends eliminating $2.7 billion from Medicaid -- a move Donna Ginther, director of special projects for the Health Care Council of Illinois, calls strike three.
Strike one is Illinois being ranked last in the nation for Medicaid reimbursements to nursing homes, according to Ginther. Strike two is the state's delinquent payments to the facilities, leaving $600 million unpaid in the last seven months.
The baseball-themed rally, called "Step Up to the Plate," included organizers taking pictures of residents like Chalifoux to deliver to Gov. Pat Quinn and put a face to the struggle.
"It's important they remember who is actually being affected when they make these cuts," Ginther said during the rally. "It's important they see your face."
State Rep. Kent Gaffney, a Republican from Lake Barrington, also attended Sunday's event, saying it's important to look beyond numbers on a piece of paper and see the people involved. Gaffney would not say whether he would advocate maintaining the Medicaid funding.
"We are in a fiscal crisis," Gaffney said. "There will be changes made that are going to impact people but it's to what extent -- that's the decision that needs to be made."
ManorCare has 100 residents but space for up to 126. The state reimburses the nursing home about $120 per day of care that actually costs $145, on average. Kathy Berg, ManorCare administrator, said any further cuts to the Medicaid budget would mean the nursing home would have to cut programs and services.
About 70 percent of the nursing home budget is for staffing costs, meaning health care workers would certainly lose their jobs if nursing homes were forced to make deeper cuts. Already Berg said ManorCare has to be creative with its budget, especially with the state nine months behind on payments.
"It's important the governor takes a look at these budget cuts and goes somewhere else," Berg said.
HCCI organized 17 rallies statewide in the last two weeks, with the last few scheduled for Monday.
A final decision on the state budget is expected before the legislative session ends May 31.