By Rod Burkett, President of the Affordable Assisted Living Coalition
I certainly understand the need for the State of Illinois to get a grip on its budget and take significant steps to control expenses. I just don’t understand the approach being proposed by the Governor for across-the-board cuts that include a 6% reduction in the reimbursement rates for Medicaid residents in Supportive Living communities.
Of course, I am biased. I am President of BMA Management, Ltd., the largest provider of affordable assisted living in Illinois. We manage 31 of the 127 Supportive Living communities that are now in operation in 73 Counties here in Illinois. I also serve as President of the Affordable Assisted Living Coalition (AALC), the organization that represents Supportive Living communities.
Here is what I don’t understand about the proposed cuts:
A 6% Cut Does Not Equal 6% in Savings
Because of the “federal match” when it comes to the Medicaid program for Supportive Living, a 6% reduction in the reimbursement rate will not result in savings of anywhere near 6% for the State. For every dollar that the State pays to Supportive Living communities to help cover the cost of Medicaid residents, the federal government reimburses the State more than 50¢.
As a result, the actual impact to the State budget will be a savings of less than 3%.
Supportive Living communities, however, will have 6% less revenue to use to maintain the quality lifestyle that is available; to upkeep services and property; and, most importantly, to recruit, hire and retain quality staff. Staff will be asked to do more with less.
Across-the Board is not Across-the-Board
The Supportive Living Program is the only Community-based Program targeted for the 6% cut. No other community-based options such as the Home Services Program or Community Care are being targeted.
Community-based programs are designed to keep people out of much more costly institutional forms of care.
Supportive Living offers several big advantages over programs such as Home Care.
Staff is on-duty in Supportive Living communities 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide residents with the help and personal assistance they need. Help is not just available for a few hours a day a few days of the week.
Staff in Supportive Living communities is able to keep a watchful eye over residents. They often will notice subtle changes in a resident and can take steps to address the situation early on before it becomes a major problem.
Research shows the negative impact of social isolation and loneliness on a person’s emotional, physical and mental state of health and the value of social interaction and engagement. Supportive Living communities provide a wealth of opportunities for residents to be socially engaged, whether it is dining with other residents, participating in activities or special events, or gathering to talk with neighbors.
Supportive Living Already Saves the State Significant Dollars
The Supportive Living program already provides huge financial benefits to the State of Illinois.
On average, 60% of the residents in Supportive Living communities are on Medicaid. If not for Supportive Living, the State would be obligated to care for these residents in nursing homes. The additional annual cost to the State would be $93 million, if these individuals were cared for in nursing homes, as compared to Supportive Living communities.
Financially, there also is a benefit that is much more difficult to measure. Residents in Supportive Living communities are much more likely to be eating properly and taking their medications when and as they should. They are living in a physical environment that is much more conducive to their needs. They are much more likely to be socially engaged and active.
This should mean less risk of nursing home care; fewer visits to the emergency room and doctor’s office; and few hospital stays.
Meeting the Governor
Last month, the Affordable Assisted Living Coalition hosted a “Meet the Governor Day,” that provided the opportunity for residents and staff of Supportive Living communities from throughout the State to come to the State Capitol and meet with Governor Patrick Quinn.
Gov. Quinn graciously greeted those in attendance and listened to their concerns about the proposed cuts to Supportive Living. He responded by saying that “I have heard your call.” He emphasized the need to keep the “living” in Supportive Living and to expand the program.
Cutting reimbursement rates certainly will make it a challenge to “keep the living” in Supportive Living and to entice service providers to expand.
The Illinois Supportive Living program has been called the best affordable assisted living program in the country. We all should be proud that our State Government in Springfield had the foresight to develop a program that benefits so many older and disabled adults, their families as well the State.
Shouldn’t Illinois protect the programs that are working so well during this fiscal crisis rather than taking the across-the board everybody needs to share the pain approach?
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment and let us know.
“BMA Management is the leading provider of affordable assisted living in Illinois
and one of the 20 largest providers of assisted living in the United States.”