Home care agencies to keep providing services despite state shortfall

Home care agencies to keep providing services despite state shortfall

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois' Community Care program, which funds home care services for the elderly, was set to run out of money Friday.

But at least two agencies serving seniors in the Champaign County area — Family Service of Champaign County and Addus Healthcare — say they'll continue sending out home care workers and wait on the state to resolve the shortfall for the rest of the fiscal year.

Family Service provides home care for 117 seniors in Champaign County, and Addus HealthCare, a national agency with an office in Champaign, serves 475 seniors in Champaign, Vermilion, Ford, Iroquois, Livingston and McLean counties, officials at those agencies said.

"We're going to go as long as we can," said Rosanna McLain, director of Family Service's Senior Resource Center.

Addus Healthcare's Agency Director Michelle Walker said Thursday the agency had been getting calls all day from people who heard the state program would run out of money, but service from Addus will continue past Friday. "We know it will get worked out eventually," she said of the funding crisis.

The Illinois Department on Aging warned providers last week that bills submitted for the Community Care program after March 15 wouldn't be paid, and a state association representing home care providers urged state legislators to pass a $173 million supplemental appropriation to keep the program afloat.

As of late Thursday afternoon, the rescue hadn't arrived.

"There is just no money," said Milly Santiago, spokesman for the Illinois Department on Aging.

"We are still working with the legislators to see if they can come up with a plan to remedy the situation," she said.

Some 80,000 seniors depend on the program statewide for home care assistance that helps keep them out of nursing homes, said Bob Thieman, executive director of the Illinois Association of Community Care Program Home Care Providers.

The program is costing about $780 million this year, but the Legislature hasn't appropriated enough money to fully fund it since 2003, with prior years' liability accumulating to $173 million by fiscal 2012, he said.

Not only that, the program is growing with the baby boomers starting to hit their home care years, Thieman said.

The association's home care provider members saw 10 percent to 15 percent growth this year, and a 20 percent boost is expected in fiscal 2014, he said.

But, Thieman contends, with nursing home care running four times money as much as home care, the Community Care Program is a cost-effective program for the state.

"The community care program is a program that keeps the seniors in their homes," he said. "The only other option that a senior would have is institution or a family member would have to quit their job to take care of the senior."

With the state already running five to six months behind on paying home care providers, even adding one month to the payment lag could push the 37 percent of the state's home care providers already in a precarious financial position off the edge of their own fiscal cliffs, Thieman said.

McLain said Family Service of Champaign County was just paid in January for four months worth of Community Care services last year — July through October — but the state still owes Family Service $156,209 for another four months worth of care provided for November 2012 through February.

But with four months worth of payment just received, and four more months still owed, Family Service can keep providing the home care services for now, McLain said.

"I can't believe they are not going to serve people the rest of the year," she said. "I think there's an awful lot of people out there depending on this service to stay out of nursing homes, which are awfully expensive,"