SPRINGFIELD - State Sen. Dan Rutherford, R-Chenoa, is fighting attempts to delay a scheduled July 1 change in the way the state calculates Medicaid reimbursement rates for nursing homes.
The new law would ensure that no nursing home receives less money in the next two years than it did this year, but when more money is put into the new reimbursement formula, it will go to the patients with the greatest medical need first, he said.
When the law was passed last year, it was supported by every nursing home association, the Department of Public Aid and every state lawmaker.
But this week, legislation was introduced on behalf of the Illinois Council on Long Term Care to delay the change until July 2004.
"The council is trying to derail this process," Rutherford said. "Their motives are not in the best interest of the state's nursing home residents, whether private pay or Medicaid recipients."
But Terry Sullivan, executive director of the Illinois Council on Long Term Care, said the delay is needed to negotiate the rules on how exactly the new law will be carried out.
"I strongly disagree with Sen. Rutherford's read of our intentions," he said.
Sullivan said his association, which represents nursing homes that care for more than half the state's Medicaid clients, has a problem with the rules the Illinois Department of Public Aid wants to use to implement the new law.
The original proposal under Rutherford's legislation benefited 93 percent of all Medicaid nursing home residents in Illinois, but the system as the Department of Public Aid intends would benefit less than 50 percent, Sullivan said.
The Department of Public Aid must file its proposed rules with the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules by May 19 if the change is to take place July 1, but the council doesn't like the drafts it has seen so far.
"We would like to stop the filing and go back to the drawing board," Sullivan said.
Rutherford said the agency would be violating the law if it did not file the rules in time and he would consider going to court if that happened.
The Department of Public Aid did not respond to a call for comment.
Sullivan said his association has teamed up with the Service Employees International Union to lobby for the one-year delay to renegotiate the proposed rules and for a separate bill to institute a bed tax to raise money for nursing homes.
In exchange, the council would allow negotiations to unionize a portion of the homes represented by the council, according to Rutherford, who criticized the arrangement as a back-room deal.
"While I have no problem with a union negotiating to unionize a nursing home, I do have a problem with political pressure applied by the council that hurts senior citizens with the greatest medical need," he said.
Rutherford said the association wants to use the delay together with the bed tax to dump more money into the old formula, which would favor its members, rather than into the new formula.
"The rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer," he said.
Sullivan said the council and the union are working together to pass a provider tax so that all nursing homes get more funding.
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