Nursing home advocates protest proposed cuts to Medicaid

May 7, 2012

By Quinn Ford

Advocates for Illinois nursing homes are protesting Gov. Pat Quinn's proposal to cut $2.7 billion in Medicaid spending.

Those advocates rallied downtown on Monday to protest how the proposed cuts would affect Illinois nursing homes.

Pat Comstock, the executive director of the Health Care Council of Illinois, said the cuts would mean turning nursing home residents cutting jobs. Comstock said Illinois already owes nursing homes more than $600 million in unpaid bills, and unlike other health care providers, nursing homes can't cut back on services.

"The services that we provide are mandated by the federal government, so when we get a cut in rates, we can't cut our services," Comstock said. "So, we're to the point where we can't do more with less." 

Comstock said Illinois is among the worst states in the nation at reimbursing nursing homes for providing care for those with Medicaid. Couple that with what Comstock said amounts to a 15 percent cut in funding to nursing homes around the state, and Comstock said nursing homes cannot afford the budget cutback.

"It doesn’t take a math wizard to figure out that we have a system that’s ready to explode,” Comstock said.

But a spokesperson for Gov. Quinn's office said the cuts are necessary to save the Medicaid system which is "on the verge of collapse."

"The status quo will do far more damage to nursing homes," Quinn spokesperson Brooke Anderson said in a statement.

Debora Gray has been a nurse at the Continental Care Center in Chicago for 15 years.

At the rally, she said she does not find it fair the nursing home workers and residents would be the ones to take the hit.

"A lot of the residents are going to get put out because of the fact they can’t pay to be there," Gray said. "And if the residents (are) not there, they don’t need the workers, so a lot of people are going to be out of a job either way it goes."