Some 500 nurses, nursing home administrators and health care leaders rallied in Chicago Monday against proposed Medicaid cuts. As state lawmakers ponder cutting Medicaid by $2.7 billion, Pat Comstock, executive director of the Health Care Council of Illinois, says cuts to Medicaid will jeopardize the quality of care for 50,000 people residing in nursing homes in Illinois who pay with Medicaid.
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“The State of Illinois is dead last in the nation when it comes to the amount of Medicaid funds the state gives nursing homes, that’s strike one,” Comstock said. “The state is more than $600 million and eight months delinquent in paying most nursing homes, that’s strike two. Illinois must not strike out when it comes to our most frail, vulnerable members of society.” The nursing home industry is the 10th largest employer in the state, according to the HCCI. The council, which represents 500 nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities in Illinois, says 100,000 people are employed by nursing homes and 70 cents of every dollar a nursing home spends is for staff wages. With Medicaid cuts, that could result in thousands of layoffs across the state. “We’re here for our jobs and we’re here for the residents we take care of,” said Marie Gongora, a certified nurse assistant from Niles Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Niles. “We are here to make a statement that lawmakers must think before they cut.”
Comstock says money can be saved if the state goes through the Medicaid rolls and checks on the eligibility of those in the program. Although the dollars saved wouldn’t add up to the $2.7 billion in proposed cuts, it’s a starting place, Comstock acknowledged.