Immediately following the address on February 18, and in the days that have followed, Access Living began to make the case that rather than fix a budget deficit, the cuts will cost Illinois more money in the long-term. Without community-based supports, people with disabilities will be forced into nursing homes and institutional care, which cost thousands of dollars more per person than supports provided in an individual’s home, such as home care workers and personal assistants
The proposed budget suggests deep reductions to Medicaid and the Illinois Home Services Program. Home Services provide about 30,000 people with disabilities with personal attendants and home care workers. The services provide a key link to independence, allowing people to live in their own homes. The governor proposes to reduce spending by raising the Determination of Need Score from 29 to 37. The Determination of Need is an assessment through which people qualify for services. With a higher threshold for the program, fewer individuals will qualify, forcing some to seek supports elsewhere, including institutions, costing Illinois more per person. “Increasing the score will only decrease the number of people receiving services and the success rate of those transitioning out of nursing facilities,” said Katie Blank, the Supervisor of Access Living’s Stepping Stones Project.
The Governor has also proposed $1.5 billion in cuts to Medicaid, which includes the reinstatement of the SMART Act, and of the Redetermination process, both of which will cut off people with disabilities from vital supports. “When these services are threatened, it only costs more because people are forced to seek hospital or institutional services.” said Amber Smock, Access Living’s Director of Advocacy.
In his February 18 speech, Rauner said the “Budget outlined today is budget Illinois can afford.” Yet, Illinois can not afford cuts to services that support the independence of people with disabilities. Far less than institutional services, community services that support the independence of people with disabilities are necessary for the fiscal rebound of Illinois. They make economic sense and they make common sense.
Before a final budget is approved, Access Living, along with centers for independent living across the state, and with other community partners, will continue to visit Springfield and will visit legislators in their home offices. During these visits, people with disabilities whose independence is threatened by the proposed cuts will make the case for Illinois to support home and community-based services. They will make the case that these cuts do not make economic sense and do not support strong communities. “The Governor is determined to find ways to reduce spending,” Smock said. “The answer is to keep strong programs that allow people to be independent at home.”