Illinois launches community health care program for seniors

SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) – Seniors in Illinois could have more convenient access to health care starting next summer. The Pritzker administration announced Monday morning a new holistic care program to provide an alternative for those who do not want to live in nursing homes.

Governor JB Pritzker and leaders of several state agencies launched the all-inclusive senior care program on Seniors Day at the Illinois State Fair.

There are approximately 260,000 seniors in Illinois who rely on Medicare and Medicaid for their health care. Pritzker said his administration wanted to make their lives easier.

The state’s new program places a strong emphasis on innovative and comprehensive health care to keep seniors comfortable in their communities. Pritzker said seniors enrolled in the PACE program could receive personal care, individualized specialty care, therapy, medication and mental health care, among other things.

“We are bringing the right of access to the doorsteps of our elders,” Pritzker said. “And if it’s covered by Medicare and Medicaid, it’s covered by PACE.”

Assistance will be available for Illinoisans 55 and older who qualify for nursing home care but are able to live at home or with family members. The administration explained that PACE can also help coordinate a patient’s care if they need nursing home services after they enroll in the program.

Illinois will join 31 other states with PACE programs when the service launches in fiscal year 2024. Current PACE programs serve approximately 60,000 people nationwide.

“It’s something we tried in the 90s and it didn’t work. We didn’t have enough interest in the state,” said Theresa Eagleson, director of the Department of Health and Welfare. Family Services (HFS) of Illinois “We just tried to expand our options, and that’s one more thing we’re doing to achieve that.”

Eagleson explained that HFS has chosen eight healthcare organizations to receive seed funding from PACE to help seniors in areas disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. These organizations are located west and south of Chicago, Southern Cook County, Peoria and east of St. Louis.

“PACE will create a holistic, local option for Illinois seniors that provides quality, integrated care,” said Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria). “The option to continue to live safely in the community will significantly improve the quality of life for Illinois seniors who enroll in the program.”

Retired nurse Anita Stenzel said she supports the community care initiative as long as it covers everyone and people don’t have to pay too much.

“Social Security, it doesn’t cover the rising cost of living,” Stenzel said. “So if the cost does not increase more, it would be fine.”

Stenzel pointed out that there were never enough staff at the nursing home where she worked for many years. She said her facility was still short of two or three nurses, which is similar to the message of many nursing home workers today. While Stenzel appreciates the administration’s new idea, she said the state needs more people to help with wellness checks.

“People who might check out people who live alone like me,” Stenzel said. “Just knock on the door and check they’re okay.”

Stenzel said older people can stay healthy by eating well and keeping their minds and bodies active as much as possible.

The Pritzker administration hopes to create more flexibility for seniors and their family members, caregivers and health care providers. Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton said the new PACE program will be a major step in improving the health and well-being of older Illinoisans.

“We recognize that our seniors deserve to live with dignity and joy, that you deserve care, resources and support to continue being yourselves,” Stratton said.

Rep. LaToya Greenwood (D-East St. Louis) also celebrated Monday’s announcement by noting that PACE will have a major impact on Illinois seniors and their loved ones.

“By creating an alternative to nursing home care that will allow seniors to continue to live safely in the community while receiving the care they need, this program will lead to better health outcomes. and an overall better quality of life,” Greenwood said.

The Illinois Department of Public Health, Department of Aging, and HFS continued to encourage older adults to stay informed about COVID-19 vaccines. Seniors were able to get free booster shots inside the Illinois building during fair hours Monday.

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