Nursing homes may face closing

Nursing homes may face closing

By Joe Baker

By Joe Baker

Senior Editor

Gov. George Ryan’s proposed budget for Medicaid will force many nursing homes in the state to close if it is passed, according to the Illinois Council on Long Term Care.

The group said such a move would threaten more than 50,000 Illinois Medicaid recipients.

Ryan is calling for an 8.8 percent cut in Medicaid payments to nursing homes, which totals $171 million, plus completely eliminating bedhold payments by Medicaid. Those monies are payments to nursing homes to reserve a bed for a resident who is in the hospital.

If the budget cuts go through, the council said, Illinois will lose federal matching funds amounting to $85.5 million. That’s 50 cents for every dollar cut in nursing home payments.

The council reports Illinois already lags behind the national standard for Medicaid financing for nursing homes. We rank 46th in the nation. Average costs at state nursing homes have risen 51 percent in the past eight years, while Medicaid rates paid to these facilities are up only 29 percent.

Group spokesmen said 79 percent of a nursing home’s budget goes for payroll. Cuts in reimbursement will make it nearly impossible for nursing homes to attract and keep good, qualified staff members in today’s labor market.

Terrence Sullivan, executive director of the council, said: “Thousands of nursing home staff members at Illinois nursing homes will end up losing their jobs as a result of these cuts to Medicaid, and resident care will suffer as a result.”

The council has proposed a solution to the problem. “The state of Illinois has the moral obligation to maintain the safety net of long-term care facilities for some of the state’s most frail and vulnerable citizens,” Sullivan said.

“Our society has the responsibility of properly caring for those who cared for us. The proposed 8.8 percent cut to Medicaid funding poses a terrible threat to the health, independence and well-being of the more than 50,000 Illinois nursing home residents dependent on Medicaid. Increasing the provider license assessment is the most practical solution to maintaining the safety net of long-term care for our state’s elderly citizens,” Sullivan added.

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