The following letter to the editor originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune.
The expectation that Medicaid-funded long-term care providers will continue to provide care to low-income and vulnerable citizens without payment for those services is short-sighted and doesn’t fully consider the strains that it places on them - and the direct care staff who provide the hands-on care to elders and people with disabilities.
For providers that can keep their doors open without Medicaid funding, it may mean cutting costs by laying-off staff, leaving the remaining nursing assistants to work longer shifts at the nursing home. Or, it may result in a consumer getting care from a new home care aide when her regular aide – who knew her schedule and needs – had to quit after losing her day care subsidy – another casualty of Gov. Rauner’s and the legislature’s inability to act and pass a budget.
For those providers that cannot keep their doors open without Medicaid payment, where are the people who relied on them for housing, for a meal, for a bath, or transportation to a medical appointment supposed to turn for care? In many instances the home care aide is the professional who checks in to make sure that her client is well, taking her medication, and isn’t at risk for injury. And for those receiving care in a nursing home, there is often not another option for them to receive 24-hour care.
These are realities that lawmakers are not taking into consideration as the budget impasse lingers on without a solution in sight. While ensuring that Medicaid providers in Cook County who serve children continue getting paid was a great solution, none seems to be in sight for the thousands statewide who rely on Medicaid services for care in nursing homes or to live safely and with dignity in their communities.
A patchwork of short-sighted solutions will only leave the state’s most vulnerable at risk. It is time to pass a budget with sufficient revenue to fund the services that seniors and people with disabilities rely on and to stabilize the long-term care employers and workers who provide the services.
Tameshia Bridges Mansfield
Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute