SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today used his amendatory veto power to leverage more federal Medicaid dollars to pump into Illinois nursing homes. It’s the Governor’s hope that his action leads to a much-deserved wage increase for thousands of frontline nursing home employees. House Bill 2220 amends the Public Aid Code to increase Medicaid rates for nursing homes – allowing the state to capture more federal funds. However, the bill’s effective date is July 1st, 2004 and the state would not have been able to retroactively capture federal funds. Therefore, Governor Blagojevich used his amendatory veto power to change the bill’s effective date to January 1st 2005.
“By making this change – the state is able to capture a greater federal Medicaid match – pumping more much-needed dollars into Illinois’ nursing homes,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “It’s my hope that the nursing home industry uses these additional dollars to reward those working so hard to care for this state’s most vulnerable citizens. Currently, nursing home workers are poorly paid and many have had their wages frozen in recent years. It’s not only fair to pay these workers better, it will improve the quality of care for Illinois seniors.”
HB 2220, sponsored by Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) and Sen. Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago), increases Medicaid rates paid to nursing homes by the difference between a facility’s per diem property, liability and malpractice insurance costs as reported in the cost report filed with the Illinois Department of Public Aid on July 1st, 2001 and those same costs reported in the facility’s 2002 cost report. According to the Department of Public Aid, the cost of the rate formula in HB 2220 is estimated to be $34 million – half of which would be paid for by a federal match.
There are currently more than 73,000 seniors living in 781 Illinois nursing homes and employees are the backbone of those facilities. A 2002 survey found employees providing frontline care to seniors in Illinois earn just slightly more than minimum wage. It’s believed that paying employees better wages for this demanding work will lead to less turnover in nursing homes and will improve the overall quality of care for Illinois seniors.
Illinois legislators return to Springfield in November to consider the Governor’s amendatory veto of HB 2220.