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BLOOMINGTON — Holding pompoms, signing papers and wearing "Hold the Line on Nursing Home Funding" stickers, about 20 residents of Heritage Health of Bloomington protested on Monday the possibility of an additional cut in state funding to long-term care.

"I just can't stand what they're doing in Springfield. It's just ridiculous," Heritage resident Carole Bode, 89, told The Pantagraph after the rally at Heritage, 700 E. Walnut St.

"If they ever tried to hold a real job, they couldn't do it," said the retired teacher and coach from the Olympia school district.

The rally — among eight statewide — was organized by the Health Care Council of Illinois that represents long-term care facilities throughout Illinois.

The council opposes the possibility of a $245 million state funding cut to nursing homes and supportive living facilities for the fiscal year beginning July 1, said Executive Director Pat Comstock. Those cuts would be on top of $55 million in cuts that long-term facilities are confronting this month and in June as part of moves by the governor and General Assembly to close a $1.6 billion budget gap in the current fiscal year.

Contacted Monday, Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said Illinois has "a $6 billion hole and, without structural reform, difficult decisions have to be made. Consuming nearly one third of all state spending, Medicaid must be part of the solution."

The budget increases funding to senior nutritional services and the long-term care ombudsman program and keeps funding for adult protective services and senior helplines, Kelly noted. "This is the budget we can afford."

Comstock said "It is our interpretation that nursing homes and supportive living facilities took more than their share of cuts. We don't think they (cuts) were applied equitably."

Benjamin Hart, president and CEO of Bloomington-based Heritage Enterprises, which has 54 facilities statewide, said the $55 million cut will mean $1.2 million to Heritage, which is considering how to absorb the cut.

"We will survive," Hart said, but if that level of cut continues into next year — meaning $245 million statewide, including $6.5 million to Heritage — "we can't sustain that and stay in business without making dramatic changes to our expenses structure." 

Unlike others who receive state Medicaid money, nursing home residents are first payers of their care and the state makes up the difference after seniors have exhausted their resources, Comstock said.

"These people contributed to society," Hart said. "We owe them care in their advanced age and that's being threatened."

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Follow Paul Swiech on Twitter: @pg_swiech

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Health Reporter

Health reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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