AARP to Legislature: Best Medicaid Reform is to Invest in Community-Based Services

Dec 14, 2010, 13:28 ET from AARP Illinois

Rebalancing Illinois' Long Term Care System Will Help Expand Services, Bring Needed Savings to Taxpayers

CHICAGO, Dec. 14, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As the State Senate explores ways to make the Illinois' Medicaid system run more efficiently while generating savings, AARP has a clear and urgent message for legislators: people don't want to be told to go to a costly nursing home where they don't want to be – invest money to allow older individuals to receive the services and programs they need in their own home and communities where they want to be. Any fiscally responsible reform needs to ensure more individuals have access to home and community-based services – a measure that will also generate significant savings to taxpayers.

Today, AARP provided testimony to the Senate Special Committee on Medicaid Reform, which is conducting hearings focused on reducing Medicaid expenditures by delivering more efficient services. The Committee is asking advocacy organizations to propose an ideal Medicaid service model for the state, identify inefficiencies to be corrected, and identify opportunities to secure additional federal funding for the State.

In response to these requests, AARP submitted draft legislation aimed at rebalancing Illinois' long term care system in a way that increases its reach and also generates important savings to taxpayers – a critical measure at a time when community providers across Illinois are being crushed under the weight of unpaid bills.

"Illinois pays, on average, nearly three times more for each citizen placed in a nursing home, than it pays for the same individual to receive home and community-based services," said Mike Spellman, the AARP Illinois volunteer who submitted testimony at the hearing in Chicago. "This is a structural flaw in our long term care system that is currently compounded by our fiscal crisis."

Unless the current long term care system is fixed and rebalanced, it will lead to further crises in the future with a growing number of providers being forced to shut their doors, suspend programs, and lay off their workers, forcing countless seniors into costly nursing homes.

AARP research estimates that by simply balancing Illinois long term care system more in favor of home and community-based services, instead of institutional care, the state could save around $250 million annually.

A recent survey of AARP member in Illinois showed that 82% wanted to preserve or expand programs that allow people to remain in their own homes, while 80% wanted improvements in the quality and cost of long term care services. Sixty-three percent of members expressed opposition to service cuts, and would even support tax increases if the money generated prevented cuts to these programs.

"We are facing dire times now but we cannot afford to only make temporary changes," Spellman added. "As our population ages, a growing number of older Illinoisans will need care over the next two decades, and will prefer to receive those services in their own home and communities. Without streamlining our long term care system, the already massive cost of services to taxpayers will skyrocket."

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