AARP Responds To Passage Of State Budget

May 31, 2012, 23:06 ET from AARP Illinois

Statement from AARP Illinois State Director, Bob Gallo

SPRINGFIELD, Ill., May 31, 2012  /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Tonight, the General Assembly passed a state budget that will mean bad news for thousands of Illinois seniors.  In an effort to balance the state budget, the General Assembly has been penny-wise and pound-foolish and has effectively turned their backs on thousands of seniors who rely on the Illinois Cares Rx prescription drug program and other home and community based service programs.

The state budget completely eliminates funding for Illinois Cares Rx – a critical prescription drug program that provides over 160,000 Illinois seniors and persons with disabilities with access to the medications they need.  The reality is that seniors who can't afford their medications will stop taking them – and the state will end up paying more for their health care down the road.

The budget also makes drastic funding cuts to Illinois' Community Care Program – a Medicaid waiver program that keeps seniors in their own homes and out of more costly institutions.  That program will see a nearly $150 million funding cut and many more seniors who might otherwise qualify for the program will be turned away.  The reality is that home and community based service programs are an absolutely essential cost-saving measure for Illinois.  The cost of caring for an individual in their own home is approximately one-third of the cost of caring for that same individual in a nursing home.  Reducing funding for home and community based services just means that more seniors will be forced into nursing homes, at a higher cost to the state.

Everyone knows that Illinois is in a financial crisis and tough decisions must be made with regards to the budget.  However, those tough decisions need to be smart decisions.  Instead of simply hacking away at programs that actually save the state money, like Illinois Cares Rx and the Community Care Program, legislators need to be thinking about the long term implications of funding cuts.

AARP is extremely disappointed that the General Assembly chose to eliminate the Illinois Cares Rx program and reduce funding for the Community Care Program.  However, we would like to recognize the effort of the Senate to restore funding for property tax relief for seniors and we encourage the House to concur on this measure.  That being said, legislators can be assured that AARP will be reaching out to our 1.7 million Illinois members and that they will be hearing from our members throughout the summer and into veto session this Fall."