Ill. Nursing Homes Facing $1.6 Billion Slash to Medicaid Program to Prevent Collapse

Nursing homes and hospitals in Illinois can expect to see their Medicaid reimbursements drop as the state seeks to repair its budget and keep the system from collapsing, the Chicago Tribune reports. But slashing $1.6 billion from the Medicaid program will undercut the state’s efforts for nursing home reform and is “totally unacceptable,” said an angered state senator amidst negotiations between lawmakers and elder advocates.

State officials maintain that reforms passed in 2010 to improve standards of care and safety in nursing homes will still go forward, despite a “series of compromises” that took place last week when nursing home operators agreed to a lower Medicaid reimbursement rate, perhaps in exchange for a level of care by registered nurses that was lower than what advocates had hoped for.

That agreement — crafted behind closed doors by top state officials and nursing home industry representatives — angered state Sen. Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago, who called it “totally unacceptable.”

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“They did an end run around the process. It was a disservice to the democratic process. Clout, money and influence determined the outcome,” said Collins, who was one of 13 senators voting against the bill Thursday.

The compromises and painful cuts, which were applied to a variety of health care programs, were needed to keep Medicaid from collapsing, state officials said.

Under the new law hammered out Thursday, Illinois will move to a Medicaid reimbursement system that pays the facilities more for serving nursing home patients with acute medical needs. The new method — known as the “resource utilization group” — creates a disincentive for housing less-acute patients in institutions, Quinn administration officials said.

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In addition, the rate cut is fashioned in a way that further encourages nursing homes to house only seriously ill patients, not those who can be better served in smaller settings, Steans said.

The new rules for staffing levels require that a minimum of 25% of all bedside care must be provided by licensed nurses, with 10% by registered nurses, the article says. Elder advocates had been hoping for a rule that registered nurses must provide at least 20% of bedside care. 

Read the full article at the Chicago Tribune

Written by Alyssa Gerace