AARP, Advocates and Legislators Team Up to Protect Thousands of Illinois Seniors

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Illinois' ongoing budgetary and partisan differences are threatening the life and well-being of thousands of the state's most vulnerable citizens who may be left without critical services should Governor Rauner's proposed cuts to the Community Care Program (CCP) go through.

Taking swift action, AARP, SEIU, the Alzheimer's Association, Care Coordination Units and other advocates and service providers teamed up today in support of legislation – House Bill 4351 HA#1 - introduced by State Representative Greg Harris to protect vulnerable seniors, and ensure the Community Care Program continues to exist to allow seniors to stay in their homes with purpose and dignity and receive the critical services they need to prevent premature and costly institutionalization.

"Illinois' ongoing partisan and budget fights are hurting countless seniors and their families across the state. This needs to stop," said AARP Illinois Associate State Director for Advocacy and Outreach Lori Hendren. "The Community Care Protection bill ensures this critical program remains in existence, and that eligible individuals are still able to receive in-home programs and services. Cutting services is not the answer. Preserving the Community Care Program must be a priority for the Governor's Office, the legislature and our state."

"Protecting home healthcare eligibility for our growing population of seniors, and for people with disabilities, is a cost-effective measure that will ensure best outcomes," said State Representative Greg Harris. "These vulnerable people deserve our care and should not be subject to the uncertainty and instability of any political cycle. We should not take away the least expensive care from tens of thousands of seniors."

"Keeping seniors and people with disabilities in their homes, as this amendment does, saves taxpayers money and lends dignity to people who need a hand," said State Senator Daniel Biss. "These individuals didn't cause the long-term structural problems facing our state and I hope everyone agrees that they shouldn't be the ones who pay the price."

"While the details have not been fully made public, Governor Rauner's $200 million cut to the Community Care Program would surely bring unacceptable hardship to the 43,000 affected seniors," said SEIU Healthcare Illinois Vice President Terri Harkin. "The idea that such drastic cuts can be enacted without a corresponding destruction of care, via automation or outsourcing or unnamed 'efficiencies,' is unrealistic. The fact is, the CCP has saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars over the years by keeping seniors in their homes, instead of costlier nursing facilities. More importantly, it offers them the dignity and human connection that Gov. Rauner's unacceptable cuts would surely erode or eliminate altogether."

"The Illinois Adult Day Services Association and the Illinois Association of Community Care Program Home Care Providers ask that all members of the General Assembly support HB 4351 to protect seniors and disabled persons from yearly attacks on whether or not they are eligible for Community Care Program and DRS adult day services," said Cindy Cunningham, President and Advocacy Chair for IADSA and Legislative Chair, IACCPHP. "Serving fragile people in the community is what people want and costs about a third less than serving them in institutions.  We are grateful for Rep. Harris's leadership on this issue."

"Governor Rauner's action represents an enormous overreach of Executive Branch authority and would have a detrimental effect on the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of people in our state," Erna Colborn, President and CEO of the Alzheimer's Association, Greater Illinois and Central Illinois Chapters, said. "Given that 70 percent of Illinoisans living with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia rely on in-home services, and that many of these critical services are provided by the Community Care Program, the Alzheimer's Association urges lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to put their most vulnerable constituents ahead of partisan politics and support this legislation."

"We appreciate the many years of efforts of the Department on Aging to serve all seniors eligible for the Community Care Program," said Bill Wheeler, Executive Director for the Illinois Council of Case Coordination Units. "We do not, however, understand how the recent CRP proposal could help given the fact that it would move 43,000 participants from the existing program and reduce their resources by 50%. Instead, we believe this would force more people into nursing homes at higher expense to the state."

"This bill provides statutory legitimacy and legislative oversight on a program being established by the Department on Aging that affects the lives of over 40,000 seniors in the State and as such provides the protection afforded these individuals under the constitution," said Robert W. Thieman, Executive Director of the Illinois Association of Community Care Program Home Care Providers.

Among other provisions, House Bill 4531 HA#1 would:

According to the Illinois Department on Aging, Illinois is expected to have a 57 percent increase in the number of individuals 60 and older over the next 15 years.

Governor Rauner has proposed starting a new program called the Community Reinvestment program, which will cut nearly $200 million from CCP and in-home services in Illinois. The Governor's proposal reimburses providers at less than half the current rate; providers will not be able to provide the same services for less than half the money.

A coalition of advocates for seniors and the disabled community in support of the Community Care Protection bill include:

AARP, on behalf of its 1.7 million Illinois members, commends Rep. Harris for his leadership and urges all members of the General Assembly to pass HB 4351, HA#1 into law.