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As Home Care Services Are Slashed, Illinois Seniors Vow To Continue ‘Moral Monday’ Protests

Protestor Ann
Protestor Ann Marie Cunningham, 78, speaks with Randi Belisomo for WGN

Illinois seniors will continue to fight Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed cuts to home care services with more “Moral Monday” protests.

Twenty people were arrested and ticketed by police in Chicago Monday for protesting cuts to the Community Care Program, which helps seniors live independently, provides caregiver support and reduces nursing home costs to taxpayers. They blocked North Michigan Avenue, one of Chicago’s busiest streets, for nearly 20 minutes.

The Jane Addams Senior Caucus led the protest. In an effort to cut spending, Rauner proposed changing the scoring system to make it tougher for seniors to qualify for the Community Care Program. Additionally, Illinois’ budget stalemate is squeezing seniors harder. With legislators locked in budget negotiations, social services have been slashed. Protestors say the situation statewide is terrifying.

“Quality of life and longevity would decrease significantly if all these seniors had to go into nursing homes,” said Anna Marin, the organization’s health care and economic justice organizer. “It would be devastating to seniors and their family members. We will continue to do ‘Moral Monday’ protests until there is a budget that puts people over profits.”

The state estimates that 36,000 seniors could lose home care services under proposed rule changes. Currently, the services are intended only for those 60 and older with assets of $17,500 or less. Recipients must have an assessed need for long-term care.

“Who wants to be in a place where you feel like you’re warehoused?” 78- year-old Ann Marie Cunningham told Randi Belisomo, co-founder of Life Matters Media, for her report on WGN News. “I mean, I’m out now and I’m moving around. I have no idea, anything could stop me. I mean at my age, every day is a blessing.”

Renee Thomas, the owner of Ma’Dear Home Service, told WGN that she has been forced to lay off home care aides. She can no longer take new clients because she is not receiving payments from the state. Many of her clients’ families who live outside of Illinois are moving seniors out of state because they do not expect that home care will ever be available to meet their needs. Thomas says she is disappointed in Rauner and his tendency to blame Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan for the budget crisis.

“I don’t want to hear anymore back talk about what the other person is doing,” Thomas said. “He’s the governor. It ultimately points to him.”

Rauner’s office issued a statement Tuesday to LMM, blaming state Democrats for the budget crisis and need for spending cuts.

“The administration has taken a series of management steps to responsibly manage the state’s finances, because  Speaker Madigan, Senate President Cullerton and the legislators Madigan controls overspent taxpayer money causing a $4 billion deficit,” according to a Rauner spokesperson. “The governor has tried to negotiate on critical reforms to free up resources to help the most vulnerable and pass a balanced budget, but unfortunately, the Speaker continues to block those reforms at the expense of the most vulnerable and the middle class.”

In July, the Department of Aging notified home care service providers that they would not reimburse for services to seniors under the Community Care Program until a budget is passed.

Nationally, the vast majority of seniors wish to live out their final years at home, but they are often unable to afford home care services. Patients and caregivers have ranked nursing homes to be the worst settings for end of life care, according to findings from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).