Hey blog readers - Jenn here from the communications team. This week I caught up with our staffer David Vinkler down in our Springfield office.
He's our expert on all things related to the state budget as well as home and community based services in Illinois. He's pretty much buried right now - analyzing where that elusive $2.8 billion (yeah that's right, BILLION) in proposed cuts might come from in order for legislators to balance the state budget by May 31st.
In order to meet the deadline, legislators are working at a frantic pace...to snip, trim, rein in, or cut funds. There lies the problem...with time running out, are legislators being thoughtful about the long term impact that some cuts will have on the state of Illinois, and specifically on the senior population? Or, as the saying goes, are they being "penny-wise and pound-foolish?"
Take for example Illinois' Community Care Program... a program that helps people with disabilities and senior citizens, who might otherwise need nursing home care, to remain in their own homes by providing simple services like meal preparation and homemaker services. The cost is about $800 per person per month, which may seem like low hanging fruit, but Vinkler says, "Think about what would happen to people who just need a little bit of help to stay in their own homes. They would be placed into skilled nursing homes and the cost of that ends up being upwards of $3,000 per month."
The same goes for the Illinois Cares Rx prescription drug program - which helps cover rising drug costs. Cut the program and people can't afford their drugs, they get sicker, and they go onto Medicaid. In the end the cost to the state, aka YOU the taxpayer, is much higher than if we had just funded the program.
Programs like Illinois Cares Rx and and the Community Care Program are like a double safety net - a stopgap for people who have worked their whole lives, saved their money, but simply cannot afford to pay for the rising cost of prescription drugs or in home care.
Think about it - unless you're abundantly wealthy, this could be you. How long would your savings last if you had to pay thousands of dollars per month for drugs, how long would your retirement savings stretch if $3,000-$5,000 per month was going out to pay for your medical care. No, really do the math...
So blog readers what can we do about it? With every group in Springfield literally screaming their heads off and lobbying their legislators not to "cut them" we need to mobilize. We need to get active and advocate for the state's most vulnerable population.
Contact your elected officials, tell them to think before they cut. They represent you! Call them! Tell them your personal stories - if you know someone on Community Care, or Illinois CaresRx or someone who gets home delivered meals, let legislators know what a difference they make for you, for your parents, for your grandparents and do it now before it's too late. You can also e-mail us your stories and we'll take them over to the Capitol.
For more information the aging budget in Illinois or if you're just really into numbers check out this cool Prezi that Dave did. You can follow his tweets @David_Vinkler
Photo Credit Flickr Commons 401K