PI Original Angela Caputo Friday May 1st, 2009, 9:49am

The Fight To Preserve Home Care For IL Seniors

After noticing that Gov. Quinn's budget proposal included $66 million in cuts to home health care for the elderly and disabled, the Campaign for Illinois' Future responded with a challenge to legislators: spend a day doing the dirty work of a home care aide -- cleaning, ...

After noticing that Gov. Quinn's budget proposal included $66 million in cuts to home health care for the elderly and disabled, the Campaign for Illinois' Future responded with a challenge to legislators: spend a day doing the dirty work of a home care aide -- cleaning, bathing, and washing laundry -- and then decide whether investing in a program that kept 86,000 Illinoisans out of nursing homes this year is worthwhile. This week, a Register-Mail reporter tagged along as State Rep. Dan Moffitt took the coalition up on their challenge.  The article sketched a profile of Galeburg resident Sandra Cooley, who receives state-sponsored home care:

[Cooley] lives on $850-a-month disability payments. She receives no food stamps, pays $190 a month for rent and pays her own utilities. She is 53, has two ruptured disks in her back, degenerative bones in her knees and suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

If Cooley were to check herself into a nursing home, Medicaid would likely pick up the tab.  However, as AARP reports (PDF), that option is three times more expensive. Last year, only 13 percent of Medicaid's long-term care budget was approved for home health care, likely due to the lucrative nursing home industry's clout on Capitol Hill. So states like Illinois are left to pick up the tab for such services, which are in increasing demand.

In late March, Chicago Democrat Rep. Danny Davis reintroduced a House version of the Community Choice Act, HB 1670 (Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin also introduced SB 683), that would equalize access to home health care by making it more easily reimburseable under Medicaid. The measure would, as SEIU Healthcare Illinois/Indiana's Brynn Siebert puts it, "help rebalance the system."  Disability advocates were in Washington on Monday to bring some attention to the measure, ABC News reports:

They're here from all over the country -- Texas, Montana, New York, Pennsylvania -- to protest what they see as President Obama not sufficiently supporting the Community Choice Act a bill that would amend the Social Security Act to provide those with disabilities and older Americans the ability to use federal funding for community-based attendant services instead of just for nursing homes.

ADAPT wants the Community Choice Act to be included as part of the overall health care reform package. The White House says that President Obama supports CCA, but whether or not it's part of the overall health reform effort hasn't been decided.

President Obama may have co-sponsored a 2007 version of the legislation as a senator, but there's plenty of concern that special interests might hijack the process. We'll be tracking its progress, as well as the efforts by the Campaign for Illinois' Future here in Illinois.

Full disclosure: SEIU's Illinois State Council sponsors this website.

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