Letter: Rauner veto compromises Alzheimer’s care

Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed House Bill 4351 today, which would have protected seniors by prohibiting any governor, Democrat or Republican, from reducing access to the Community Care Program (CCP) arbitrarily. The Alzheimer’s Association, Illinois Chapter Network is urging members of the Illinois House to protect seniors and swiftly override the Governor’s veto.

CCP provides in-home and community-based care services for low-income Illinois seniors and was created specifically to care for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, helping to prevent unnecessary, premature, and more costly nursing home care.

“The news that Gov. Rauner chose to veto House Bill 4351 today is extremely disappointing,” Erna Colborn, President and CEO, Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Illinois Chapter and Central Illinois Chapter said. “Putting a program like CCP – which benefits so many while preventing more costly outcomes – into limbo is not a solution to our state’s fiscal dilemma; in fact, it only adds to Illinois’ fiscal woes,” Colborn continued. “The moral and financial stakes are just too high to not maintain a program that many Illinois seniors with Alzheimer’s depend on for care and dignity.”

Currently, there are 590,000 Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers in Illinois providing 671 million hours of unpaid care at more than $8.2 billion. The number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease in Illinois is expected to grow by 40,000 in the next nine years alone.

Community Care Program under Gov. Rauner

To determine an individual’s level of need for care services, the State of Illinois uses an assessment tool known as the Determination of Need (DON) Score. Shortly after taking office in January 2015, Governor Rauner proposed raising the threshold DON Score for CCP eligibility from 29 to 37, eliminating services for over 24,000 Illinois seniors.

On behalf of those seniors, the Alzheimer’s Association’s Greater Illinois Chapter Network, AARP Illinois, and numerous other organizations worked with state Senator Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, and state Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, to pass House Bill 2482 in response to the governor’s proposal.

Despite having retracted his proposal and leading members of the Legislature to believe he had no intention of changing eligibility for low-income seniors to receive in-home care services after the bill was introduced, Governor Rauner vetoed House Bill 2482.

Alzheimer’s advocates joined thousands of concerned seniors from across the state in pushing the General Assembly to override the governor’s veto, which failed to pass the House by one vote November 2015. The governor has since proposed even more drastic reductions to CCP, this time in the face of data from Comptroller Leslie Munger, an appointee of Gov. Rauner, indicating that the average annual cost to taxpayers per CCP client is $10,000, rather than the $30,000 average annual cost of maintaining residents in nursing homes through the state’s Medicaid program. In response to this, Biss and Harris passed House Bill 4351 in May 2016, which Governor Rauner vetoed today.

This action comes after disagreement between the Governor and leaders of the Illinois General Assembly over healthcare for Illinois seniors and could be the final step before the implementation of a drastic $200 million cut to in-home and community-based care. This will jeopardize the quality of life and eliminate services for 44,000 seniors, many of whom are living with, or caring for someone with, Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia.

From the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Illinois Chapter

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