Mary Rita issued a press release Dec. 30, condemning Gov. Rauner for his veto of bi-partisan legislation intended to preserve the state's Community Care Program.The governor quietly vetoed the bill late Friday, Dec. 29, to avoid public attention prior to the long New Year's holiday weekend.
Nearly 100,000 older adults in Illinois, who can no longer care for themselves and would qualify for nursing home placement, receive support at home through CCP. The program was established in the early 1980s to provide options for financially dependent, frail older adults who did not want to be placed in nursing homes.
Access to home and community based services through the Community Care Program is very important and a personal issue to Mary Rita. Discussing the veto, she called CCP, " a shining light for frail older adults and the families that care for them." She reflected on her experience early in her marriage when "our grandmother came to live with us. She could no longer fully care for herself but did not want to live in a nursing home. Personal care assistants made it possible for her to have that special time in her final years with her grandson and great-granddaughter."
This experience illuminated the importance of services and supports that enhance family care-giving. "Without the additional outside services there was no way we could have provided all the care she needed while also working and caring for an infant."
The asset limit for CCP eligibility is $17,500. Most of the older adults receiving support under CCP are also eligible for the state's Medicaid program, which covers medical and home and community based services for older adults and people with disabilities with assets under $2500. Under Medicaid, the federal government covers half of the state's costs of care.
The legislation, HB 1424, sponsored by state representative Greg Harris and senator Daniel Biss, was passed in the Fall by large bi-partisan majorities in the House and Senate to ensure the continuation of program benefits for everyone who qualified based on need for care and who were under the asset limit. The Bill was intended to maintain the program at current levels despite Gov. Rauner's attempts to greatly diminish care for the approximately 36,000 older adults receiving benefits who are not covered by Medicaid. (See the Fact Sheet developed by the more than 20 state organizations that support maintaining CCP for all frail older adults who currently qualify.)
While there is a cost for in-home care, there is plenty of evidence that support services to assist family caregivers is ultimately more cost-effective than relegating frail older adults to nursing homes, where the cost per day, every day for the rest of their lives, is many times the cost of personal care. Appropriate intervention early in the frailty process delays or eliminates nursing home utilization. "We have to look at costs, to be sure. But we also have to look at long term benefits. If we spend money today but see substantially decreased spending on fewer days in a nursing facility tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, then the costs for today are a good investment."
Mary Rita looks forward to engaging in this debate as state representative from the 17th District. "The goal of public policy is to use limited state resources in the most cost effective way possible. Supporting families caring for frail older adults is precisely one of those ways."