One of the biggest threats to the health and safety of those in nursing homes is understaffing. It’s a problem nationwide. A new law signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker last month is intended to improve staffing levels throughout Illinois nursing homes by tying Medicaid funding to those levels as well as to its quality ratings.
The law, which passed unanimously in both houses of the state legislature, will invest $700 million to implement a “patient-driven” payment model that in part improves the financial transparency of these facilities.
Where does the money go?
The new law will also provide money to improve wages for staffers such as certified nursing assistants and to cover other costs that have been rising. Some staffers could get as much as an $8 per hour rate increase.
The law will increase the amount of money provided to nursing homes that have a larger-than-average number of residents who receive Medicaid. Approximately 45,000 people in Illinois nursing homes (about 70% of total residents) receive Medicaid benefits.
The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) will tie its funding of nursing homes to staffing levels. Arlington Heights State Sen. Ann Gillespie says, “This legislation will…positively affect the care and quality of life for tens of thousands of nursing home residents across the state by putting in place accountability measures and tying new funding to quality metrics.” She added that “in Illinois nursing homes, we will not tolerate profits being valued over people.”
The law will be effective once it has approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. CMS has already expressed support for these patient-driven payment models.
There’s no doubt that higher wages and more staffing can make a big difference in the quality of care received by nursing home residents. However, these changes aren’t going to happen overnight. If a family member has suffered harm from neglect, medical errors or abuse in a nursing home, it’s crucial to deal with it immediately. It may be necessary to seek legal guidance to get the justice and compensation you and your loved one deserve.