Harmon, Silverstein urge Rauner administration to move cautiously with senior care pilot program (VIDEO)

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SPRINGFIELD – About 36,000 senior citizens could be neglected or forced into nursing homes if the Rauner administration pushes forward with an untested in-home care program with no state budget in place.

State Senator Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat and president pro tempore of the Illinois Senate, said putting senior citizens into crisis to save money is unacceptable and pledged to protect the state’s existing Community Care Program, a proven decades-old program that provides services for non-Medicaid seniors so they can live independently and thrive in communities throughout Illinois.

“This is typical of the Rauner administration. In the rush to save millions of dollars in the short run, it would jeopardize billions in the long run,” Harmon said.

“These are real senior citizens who depend on this program and would be deprived. Where we could spend a few hundred dollars a month providing services seniors to keep them in their homes living healthy, integrated lives, we now risk moving them into nursing homes at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars a year.

“This is a poorly planned effort in my view, and I urge the Rauner administration to proceed with great caution, especially in the absence of a budget.”

The administration is moving forward with plans to establish the Community Reinvestment Program, which it says would save the state $120 million in the first year.

But critics say the state will achieve those cost savings by replacing trained home care workers with services such as Uber drivers, laundry services and meal vouchers, greatly diminishing the quality of care that vulnerable senior citizens receive.

Furthermore, rather than establish the new program through legislation, which comes with opportunities for hearings and public feedback, the Rauner administration chose to bypass the General Assembly, instead adopting rules that must only be presented to the legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, more commonly referred to as JCAR. A bipartisan supermajority vote by JCAR is required to slow or halt the adoption of the Rauner administration’s rules.

Harmon is a co-chairman of JCAR.

“Even if you look at the Rauner proposal in the most charitable light, it depends on funding in the state budget, and that funding does not exist today,” he said. “Without a budget, the proposed program is doomed to fail. Even with it, there are great concerns about the efficacy of the program.”

Harmon appeared at a news conference Wednesday with opponents to the plan, including Lori Hendren, associate state director for AARP Illinois; and Barbara Franklin with the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans. State  Senator Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago) also spoke at the news conference.

"I'm hoping that JCAR can stand together and be the bipartisan committee it should be," Silverstein said. "What the governor's doing is inexcusable."

Hendren said the governor’s pilot program is besieged with alarming safety loopholes, unprecedented policy control by the administration and unreliable care options for senior citizens and their loved ones.

“AARP Illinois is calling upon all elected officials – Republicans and Democrats – to rise above politics and hear the cries of Illinois’ aging seniors who are fearful their current in-home and community care will be taken from them under Gov. Rauner’s alarming initiative,” she said.

“The time is now to stop the governor’s Community Reinvestment Program and unite together for discussions for meaningful and compassionate reforms to our state’s current Community Care Program.”