Nursing home reform inches closer as session deadline looms

Published: Apr. 4, 2022 at 4:44 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - After months of negotiations, the state’s top Medicaid provider is revealing significant progress toward compromise, which they argue could lead to an improved quality of life for residents.

The Department of Healthcare and Family Services has been working to change how nursing homes are paid for nearly two years. Primarily, the department is looking to shift to a system that focuses on combating staffing shortages and improving the quality of care.

However, that reform hit a snag as nursing home advocate Healthcare Council of Illinois introduced competing reforms and legislation to the General Assembly earlier this year. Since then, the two groups have been in negotiations, which a letter provided to the Capitol Bureau said is coming to an end soon.

“We should have been here months ago, but we’re really glad that we are where we are,” HFS Director Theresa Eagleson said. “[We’re] super optimistic about the coming days and even more optimistic about getting these reforms in place.”

In the letter addressed to HCCI Board Chairs Daniel Weiss and Jonathan Aaron, Eagleson writes in the letter that the two parties had come to an agreement on how an annual tax would be set, and that facilities would be paid based on how well staffed they are.

Eagleson said this agreement signifies important progress, meaning they are able to put the reforms into legislative language and be passed by the General Assembly. However, the clock is ticking as the session will end on Friday. As of now, there is no bill yet introduced.

Pieces of the compromise would also include over $200 million in extra payments, such as an increased daily payment for facilities with a high concentration of Medicaid patients. Those payments would come out of the general revenue fund of the budget, which is subject to the approval of the General Assembly.

Additionally, it provides for a transition period of 15 months starting July 1 if passed. HFS will also pay nursing homes as if they were more properly staffed, in order to provide an incentive for hiring more workers and nurses in the facilities. Eagleson said they believe it will give them a taste of what they could be making.

“There’s no reason why this shouldn’t pass, and 45,000 individual lives, 45,000 reasons why it should pass,” Eagleson said.

A spokesperson for HCCI said they did not have any information to share at this time.

In the meantime, several groups had spoken out asking for faster action towards compromise, saying every day without reform “jeopardizes” residents.

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