Illinois launches public health program for seniors

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

Governor J. B. Pritzker and leaders from several state agencies launched the Comprehensive Senior Care Program during Seniors Day at the Illinois State Fair.

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

The state’s new program places a strong emphasis on innovative and comprehensive health care for seniors so they can feel comfortable in their community. Pritzker said seniors who enroll in the PACE program can receive personal care, individualized special care, therapy, medication and mental health care, among others.

“We’re providing access right to the doorstep of our seniors,” Pritzker said. “And if it’s covered by Medicare and Medicaid, it’s also covered by PACE.”

Assistance will be available to Illinois residents age 55 and older who are eligible for nursing home care but can live in their own 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 enrolling in the program.

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

“It’s something we actually tried in the 1990s and it didn’t work. We didn’t have enough interest in the state,” said Theresa Eagleson, director of the Illinois Department of Health and Family Services (HFS). “We’ve just been trying to expand our capabilities and this is another thing we’re doing to do that.”

Eagleson explained that HFS has selected eight healthcare organizations to receive initial PACE funding to help seniors in areas disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. These organizations are located in west and south Chicago, southern Cook County, Peoria, and East St. Louis.

“PACE will create for Illinois seniors a holistic and community-based option that provides quality, integrated care,” said Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria). “Being able to continue living safely in the community will greatly improve the quality of life for Illinois seniors who enroll in the program.”

Retired nurse Anita Stenzel said she supports the public care initiative as long as it covers everyone and people don’t pay too much out of pocket.

“Social Security is not keeping up with cost-of-living increases,” Stenzel said. “So if the price doesn’t go up any further, it will be fine.”

Stenzel stressed that the nursing home where she worked for many years was never understaffed. She said her facility is always short of two or three nurses, similar to the message many nursing home staff have today. While Stenzel appreciates the administration’s new idea, she said the state needs more people to help with health screenings.

“People who could check on people who live alone like me,” Stenzel said. “Just knock on the door and check on them to make sure they’re okay.”

Stenzel said seniors 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. Gov. Juliana Stratton said the new PACE program will be an important step in improving the health and well-being of older Illinois residents.

“We recognize that our seniors deserve to live with dignity and joy, that you deserve care, resources and support to continue to be your amazing selves,” Stratton said.

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

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

The Illinois Department of Public Health, Department of Aging and HFS continued to encourage seniors to stay up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines. Seniors could get free booster shots at the Illinois Building during Monday’s fair.

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