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Policy: Entitlements

Illinois patients continue nursing home care waits

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Illinois,Entitlements

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois changed its law last year to streamline decision-making on state-paid nursing home care, but an audit has found that a backlog remains.

Auditor General William Holland found in a review that of 4,226 people waiting as of July to see if Medicaid will pay for their long-term care, 2,141 had been waiting more than 90 days.

Lee Enterprises Newspapers' Springfield bureau reports (http://bit.ly/1zDKZoj ) that lawmakers changed the law and pumped more money into the system last year to erase the backlog.

The audit was conducted in response to the change in law which expanded Medicaid eligibility as part of the federal Affordable Care Act.

Officials opened two processing centers — one in Chicago and one in Macon County, in central Illinois — to speed the process. Department of Healthcare and Family Services Director Julie Hamos told legislators last spring that the improvements would "increase accuracy and efficiency by dedicating workers to develop long-term care expertise."

People applying for state-funded nursing home care must go through a series of financial tests. Officials must determine that they have exhausted other financial resources before putting them on Medicaid rolls.

Holland said it was unclear whether the changes were addressing the problem. Officials "could not tell at this point whether staffing will be adequate to handle all long-term care functions," he said, adding that the system might need more money, too, although the state is billions of dollars in debt.

Chicago Democratic Sen. Heather Steans, who sponsored the legislation, said she was pleased that the overall backlog has dropped from more than 10,000 in January.

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