Mt. Vernon Register-News

April 30, 2013

Rally set to protest cuts to Medicaid

By RICK HAYES rick.hayes@register-news.com
The Register-News

---- — MT. VERNON — A state organization has begun a statewide blitz to rally support for the nursing home community.

The Health Care Council of Illinois has scheduled a Be A Star for Nursing Home Residents rally at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Countryside Manor on Illinois Highway 15 East.

The purpose of the statewide tour is to fight for funding for essential medical services such as dental, vision and podiatry care. Officials are expected to encourage lawmakers to support a bill that would rollback cuts to care for vulnerable seniors.

According to the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, the state had projected to save $1.6 billion but has fallen 30 percent short, failing to realize savings of $464 million. The nursing home industry says that their residents have borne far too high of a burden under the state's cuts and that the quality of life for the elderly has suffered far too much.

Dental care is one area dramatically affected by Medicaid cuts in the SMART Act last year, a news release stated. Current law does not allow for nursing home residents to receive any dental care unless it is an emergency. For example, dentures are no longer covered by Medicaid. If a resident's dentures break they could be forced to receive nourishment through a feeding tube. According to Duke University Health Systems, prolonged use of a feeding tube can cause pneumonia, infection and diarrhea, among other problems.

Dental professionals have also called on legislators to restore funding for dental care, which is crucial to the health of seniors with Medicaid. "This undue burden of allowing for extractions without replacing the teeth with dentures needs to be addressed," stated Dave Marsh, Director of Governmental Relations for the Illinois State Dental Society. "Restoring (funding) for dentures will go a long way in insuring that the most needy citizens, many in nursing homes can function and eat their food if faced with the need for an extraction which is the only remaining service covered under the adult Medicaid program."

Professionals in the field of podiatry have also decried the cuts in funding for care to Medicaid patients. "Lack of podiatry care threatens the overall health of elderly people in may ways and greatly diminishes their quality of life," states Dr. Michael Hriljac, executive director of the Illinois Podiatric Medical Association.

HCCI's Hollywood themed multi city tour is raising awareness of these funding and medical issued in advance of Illinois Nursing Home week which begins on May 6.