Illinois nursing homes provide wider range of services, despite shrinking state budget

Illinois nursing homes provide wider range of services, despite shrinking state budget


CHICAGO—Illinois nursing homes are providing more advanced health care services than ever—and are shouldering the financial burden. Despite the fact that average costs at Illinois nursing homes have increased by 61 percent over the last nine years, Medicaid rates have risen only by 37 percent. Now, the state is threatening to slash 8.8 percent of Medicaid funding to nursing homes—a total of $171 million—along with an elimination of bedhold payments. The Illinois Council on Long Term Care predicts that as a result, many nursing facilities, unable to withstand increased costs, will go out of business.

Costs are increasing, in part, because nursing homes no longer serve just the elderly. An increasing number of individuals, including those who are in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, now receive hospital-level therapy and rehabilitation services in nursing homes. Plus lengths of hospital stays have decreased dramatically. Now, therapy and rehab, once performed in hospitals, often take place in nursing homes.

“Today’s nursing homes now serve a wide spectrum of high-level patients including those with brain injuries, spinal cord injuries and neuromuscular impairments,” said Terrence Sullivan, executive director of the Illinois Council on Long Term Care. “Many facilities have their own physical, occupational and speech therapists on staff and have fully-equipped therapy rooms with state-of-the-art rehabilitation equipment. The services that nursing facilities offer now include dialysis care, ventilator management, wound management and cardiac care.”

Additionally, “lower care” Medicaid residents have shifted from nursing home environments to other settings. People are now coming to nursing homes when they are very sick. These individuals are not the “lighter care” residents of years past—they are entering nursing homes at later points in their lives when they need a high level of medical assistance, and they are staying for shorter periods of time. Their advanced care needs have led to higher staffing levels and clinical services that come at a higher cost.

With two-thirds of our state’s nursing home population dependent on Medicaid, the state must provide adequate funding to meet the health care needs of a more frail and debilitated population. The Illinois Council recommends that, with a recession budget, the best solution to avoiding these devastating cuts to Medicaid is to temporarily increase the provider license assessment.

“By raising money through a provider license assessment, all monies raised will be matched by the federal government,” states Sullivan. “Increasing the provider license assessment will cost the state nothing and will also prevent the loss of needed Medicaid matching funds. Rather than lose federal funds, an increased license assessment brings more federal funds to Illinois to help solve the state’s budget problems. Increasing the provider license assessment is the most practical solution to maintaining the safety net of long-term care for our state’s frail and elderly citizens who require advanced clinical care.”

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