GIRARD — The administrator of a nursing home in this Macoupin County community says she is glad Gov. Bruce Rauner signed bills designed to reduce the backlog of patients waiting to be approved for Medicaid coverage in Illinois.
But the governor’s action to enact Senate bills 2385 and 2913 earlier this month won’t save Pleasant Hill Village’s skilled-care facility from a planned closure Sept. 1, Pleasant Hill administrator Maryann Walker told The State Journal-Register.
The new laws may help other nursing homes remain open, she said.
“Maybe no one else will have to do it,” she said. “You don’t want to see this happen to other people if you can avoid it. For us, it was like, ‘too little, too late.’”
SB 2385, sponsored by Sens. John Mulroe, D-Chicago, and Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, allows banks to share financial information with the state to help determine long-term care eligibility.
SB 2913, sponsored by Mulroe, Syverson and other senators from both political parties, eliminates the need for annual applications for long-term care beneficiaries if their financial situation is unchanged.
SB 2913 also allows long-term care facilities to provide missing application data to the state rather than having to wait on the patient or a family member.
The Republican governor said in a news release: “We want to do everything possible in easing the bureaucratic burden on seniors and their loved ones as they enroll in Medicaid long-term care. It is not fair to residents that it can take up to a year to get approved for essential services. Our families deserve better.
“These important reforms will reduce the wait time and help eliminate a backlog of applications.”
Still sitting on Rauner’s desk is House Bill 4771, which would automatically but temporarily grant Medicaid eligibility for patients waiting 45 to 90 days.
The bill passed the state Senate and House unanimously and was backed by advocates for nursing homes, though it was opposed by the Rauner administration’s Illinois Department of Human Services and Department of Healthcare and Family Services.
Of all the bills, HB 4771 would have the greatest impact on the backlog, according to Matt Hartman, a lobbyist for the Illinois Health Care Association.
When asked Rauner’s view of the bill, Rauner spokeswoman Elizabeth Tomev said in an email: “The legislature has sent about 600 bills to the governor’s desk. We’re reviewing them and will comment at the appropriate time.”
Pleasant Hill Village, a not-for-profit facility associated with the Church of the Brethren, is still waiting on about $2.3 million in Medicaid payments for more than a dozen patients, most of whom have either moved to other nursing homes or died, Walker said.
The 98-bed nursing home, which had operated for 113 years, had 63 patients as of June 25.
Since plans were announced for Pleasant Hill Village’s closure — mostly driven by the backlog in Medicaid payments related to the state’s delayed decisions on eligibility — patients have left for other facilities.
Patients have moved to nursing homes in Virden, Auburn, Carlinville, Hillsboro, Lincoln and Springfield, and one moved to Delaware to live with her daughter, Walker said.
Only two patients remained as of last week, and one of those was waiting on a Medicaid eligibility decision, Walker said.
The closure won’t affect the Pleasant Hill complex’s 48 apartments for assisted living and independent living. People in those apartments don’t pay for their care with Medicaid.
The processing backlog totals about 15,000 long-term care applications that represent $280 million to $320 million in reimbursements to Illinois nursing homes and supportive-living centers, according to Matt Werner, a Springfield consultant in a federal court case seeking to clear the backlog.
The Pleasant Hill Village closure will eliminate about 60 jobs in this community of 1,800 people about 25 miles south of Springfield. Many workers have found work at other nursing homes, and about 20 remained on the job last week, Walker said.
Contact Dean Olsen: firstname.lastname@example.org, 788-1543, twitter.com/DeanOlsenSJR.