Seniors Program Cuts Could Hurt Illinois Lawmakers

Monday, 09 Jul 2012 10:51 AM

By Greg McDonald

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Illinois lawmakers may be gambling with their political futures by cutting prescription drug and property tax programs that help many of the state’s seniors survive, according to a report Monday in Chicago Tribune
“These cuts were a gamble, and the gamble may not pay off,” David Vinkler, associate state director of AARP Illinois, told the newspaper, noting that seniors can be a powerful voting block come election time.
Under the state’s $33.7 billion spending plan, which took effect July 1, the senior drug discount program was eliminated along with a tax relief program that last year provided 288,500 of the state’s seniors with about $100 each. The two programs cost the state about $100 million a year.
In addition the plan also trims some $150 million from a community care program that helps seniors in their homes.
Vinkler called the cuts shortsighted, because the programs helped seniors stay in their homes and out of more expensive nursing and hospital facilities. By investing on the front end, he told the Tribune, the state was actually saving money over the long haul. The cutbacks could reverse that.
“These cuts really start to whittle away at seniors’ ability to live in the community, and it benefits no one,” he said. “Many only need a minimal amount of support.
But when they lose these services, in a lot of cases it’s a matter of choosing how to survive. And that means looking at nursing homes, which seniors don’t want to live at and which costs the taxpayer lots more than the programs being cut.”

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