The Human Toll

The Human Toll

 

Yesterday, I watched the faces and listened to the voices of my House colleagues from both sides of the aisle in a closed-door briefing as the implication of each of the Governor’s proposed cuts in Medicaid was explained.  If 180,000 seniors lose prescription drug assistance, what were their options?  If we eliminate combination therapy for 4,500 people with HIV/AIDS, what would the impact be?

 

If admissions to supportive living facilities or community care for  seniors or people with disabilities was halted, wouldn’t that just drive costs up in nursing homes, hospitals or other more expensive treatment/living options?  If the state stops paying for preventive care, aren’t we just shifting costs to ER visits, acute care and hospitals and increased costs for private insurance? And on down the list of pages and pages of charts and fine print.

 

Outside of that closed room, we were besieged by earnest board members from Catholic Charities, worried about budget cuts in the Homeless Prevention programs that would mean turning away nearly 16,000 families in distress.

 

Leaders of the Safer Foundation passed out fact sheets showing in the next 12 months how many of the adult population in Illinois prisons will be returning to the community. Their statistics show that the recidivism rate is around 50% for those that get no transition assistance, but only 31% for those that get substance abuse, job-placement and other reentry services at Adult Transition Centers.  The proposed budget eliminates most of those.

 

Then came the hospice nurses with their fact sheets about the impact of the proposed cuts to the hospice program. They compared the costs of home hospice care to hospital stays for people at the end of life: $150-$650 per day to die at home versus $1,948 per day to die in the hospital.

 

When I got back to my office there were piles of reports. The Families USA report showed that the proposed Medicaid changes would cost Illinois 25,615 jobs. CeaseFire reduced shootings and killings 16% and 28%. The Illinois Chamber of Commerce had a Medicaid proposal and the Illinois Hospital Association had another. The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability research brief indicated that over the last several years the cuts to human service providers had eliminated over 18,000 jobs and $2.14 billion in private economic activity.  The minutes of the COGFA hearings on state facilities closures told of job loss and economic harm in communities across Illinois where the facilities are major employers, and the fears of families of those in the facilities for what a closure might mean to a loved one.

 

The numbers say that we must pay our bills and live within our means. The numbers say that we have to pay debts; we have to cut over $1 billion from last year’s expenses, plus cut another $2.7 billion from Medicaid and further reform our pension systems.  That’s what the numbers say.  You can read the reports, and see the studies and say what must be done must be done.  And at the end of the day we will pass a budget that may make some of these cuts, or may close some tax loopholes, or may “transform”, “modernize” or “right-size” government or “give everyone a haircut” or whatever the consultants and commentators cheerfully call it.

 

But for those of us who will cast a vote for it, and for those of you who have to deal with the consequences to your family, your town or your business, there are no good choices.  We will pick winners and losers and there will be a human toll.

 

Here are links to some of the reports, studies and proposals. Please read them.  And as always, I look forward to hearing your suggestions and thoughts. I can be reached in Springfield at 217 782 3835 or greg@gregharris.org.