Illinois’ health associations generally support a roughly $50.6 billion spending plan approved by the General Assembly over the weekend. [Health News Illinois]
A sticking point for lawmakers last week was how much to increase wages for those who work with individuals with developmental disabilities. The initial budget draft included a $2 per hour increase, but the final approved package raises that to $2.50 an hour.
The Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities was opposed to the initial proposal and thanked lawmakers for the additional funds.
“The extra dollars will help our members address a crisis in staffing that is reducing services available to those with disabilities in Illinois,” they said in a statement. “We have to stay ahead of the growing state minimum wage to recruit and retain workers, and this increase will help do that.”
Illinois Health and Hospital Association CEO A.J. Wilhelmi said the package has a welcome focus on healthcare services and “advances much-needed, long-term financial assistance for hospitals.”
“This state investment secures critical, ongoing relief in response to the financial challenges and workforce pressures Illinois hospitals are navigating in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said, referring to a provision that includes 10 percent increases to hospital Medicaid base rates. "This legislative action will help preserve access to care for all Illinois residents — particularly our most vulnerable populations — and protect the long-term viability of Illinois hospitals.”
The Illinois Primary Health Care Association highlighted an additional $50 million their members are expected to receive to support Medicaid rates, as well as budget provisions that add $3 million for scholarship and student loan repayment programs for healthcare workers from underrepresented backgrounds and expand billable behavioral health provider types.
“During a difficult budget climate, we greatly appreciate the Legislature’s vote of confidence and willingness to continue investing in the community health centers — a model that has proven to keep people healthy, thereby improving patient health outcomes and lowering Medicaid costs,” they said in a statement.
The House approved the package early Saturday morning along party lines. Gov. JB Pritzker said he intends to sign it into law.
“I look forward to signing this budget making childcare and education more accessible, healthcare more affordable and our state’s business and economic position even stronger,” he said.
Other provisions in the plan include $550 million to fund a program that provides Medicaid-like coverage to certain undocumented individuals. The proposal does not expand eligibility for the program, a step advocates had sought this spring.
The Medicaid omnibus approved Friday gives the Department of Healthcare and Family Services emergency rulemaking to implement provisions intended to reign in the costs of the program, which is estimated to hit $1.1 billion in the coming year.
The budget would also:
· Provide an additional $38 million for 23 safety-net hospitals that serve low-income communities.
· Provide $18 million to establish a reproductive health navigation hotline, training and consultation programs.
· Create a council to advise HFS on how to support veteran suicide prevention.
· Grant the Office of Firearm Violence Prevention the ability to award violence prevention organizations grants for violence prevention services related to behavioral health, including clinical interventions, crisis interventions and group counseling supports.
· Establish the Opioid Remediation Services Capital Investment Grant Program.
Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, a Democrat from Peoria and lead House budget negotiator, said the package is a “fiscally and socially responsible plan” that will, in part, help more individuals access healthcare services.
“I am appreciative of the months of negotiation and hard work from both sides of the aisle to develop this responsible and compassionate plan, and look forward to the strong, positive impact it will have on uplifting families across our state,” she said.
Rep. Norine Hammond, the Republican’s chief budgeteer from Macomb, said the budget “does not reflect our shared priorities.”
“Despite their statements to the contrary, the budget passed by the majority Democrats is not balanced,” she said. “It relies on a series of fiscal fabrications and schemes, such as only funding half-a-year’s-worth of Medicaid costs and shifting $700 million from local government funds into the State’s General Revenue Fund.”