Illinois nursing homes to get $110M in federal aid 

Illinois is getting $110 million from the federal government to improve safety and staffing at nursing homes, Gov. Pat Quinn said Tuesday.

The money is supposed to address poor supervision of sometimes-dangerous psychiatric patients living alongside the elderly and disabled. Nursing homes will be able to hire more staff and state government can pay for increased inspections.

"This is positive news for people who live in a nursing home or have a loved one living in a nursing home," the Democratic governor said in a statement.

The money is available because nursing homes have agreed to pay a new state tax of $6.07 each day for every non-Medicare patient they serve. The tax money is then put into the Medicaid program so that it qualifies for federal matching funds. Then the state money and matching funds are returned to nursing homes to spend on improvements.

The tax is supposed to generate $145 million. Of that, $20 million will be used to hire 160 additional inspectors and to support alternatives to nursing homes, like home care. The remaining $125 million is what goes into Medicaid and draws the federal matching funds to Illinois.

The nursing home group Health Care Council of Illinois agreed to the plan.

But some homes have concerns because the new money will be distributed through Medicaid, which largely serves the poor. That means homes with large numbers of indigent patients will get most of the money, while those with more affluent patients will see less.

"It is a bad plan for good homes and a good plan for bad homes," Kirk Riva, vice president of public policy at the Life Services Network, the association of nonprofit facilities, told the Chicago Tribune. "We think it's offensive."

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