A Publication of WTVP

Illinois’ supportive living program is a win-win, saving the state money while providing a more suitable level of care.

Just over a decade ago, the state government noticed that it was spending large sums for individuals to live in nursing homes, even though they did not require 24-hour skilled nursing care. Many were there because they could no longer live alone, but their Medicaid benefits didn’t cover the intermediate level of care provided by assisted living facilities. Realizing that it could save a substantial amount of money, the state created a new assisted living program through which Medicaid beneficiaries can receive the care they need without paying for unnecessary, extended stays in nursing homes. The program, known as supportive living, is currently in its 12th year of operation.

Bridget Rumler, marketing and sales director of the John M. Evans Supportive Living Community in Pekin, explains the program by using two of her facility’s residents as examples. Lois and Darlene were roommates in a nursing home and had been there for quite awhile. When John Evans opened its doors in 2007, each woman moved into her own single-bedroom apartment with a private bath—and a great deal more privacy. Medicaid still pays for their care, but because the state only covers the level of care they need, it is realizing about 60 percent in cost savings per person.

Much like an assisted living facility, supportive living provides an affordable assisted lifestyle for those who are 65 years or older, including help with daily activities such as laundry, meals, maintenance and housekeeping, wellness programs, and active lifestyle events. Each resident has a tailored service plan that can include things like medication reminders and help bathing or getting dressed. “There are all kinds of services we can provide people to maintain their independence in their own environment,” explained Rumler, “as opposed to living in a nursing home or living without the services [at home].”

With only a handful of supportive living facilities here locally, most are currently running at capacity. The program’s early success prompted quick growth, and there are currently 37 additional facilities under construction that have gone through the process of obtaining state certification.

And supportive living facilities are not just for Medicaid beneficiaries. According to Trish Stegall, director of marketing at Petersen Health Care, “Supportive living is the missing piece in senior living because it offers an excellent quality of life with a wide array of services to people of any income level.”

Rumler and Stegall agreed that one of the main benefits of supportive living facilities is that they don’t make residents move out when their resources run dry, as private-pay assisted living facilities do. Individuals at any income level can move into a supportive living facility and either pay their bills out of pocket or use Medicaid benefits. Private payers can keep their current living arrangements and switch to Medicaid benefits should they eventually run out of money.

A leader in this industry, Petersen Health Care opened its first supportive living facility in Monmouth in October 2007, and has since opened similar facilities in Canton and Sullivan. Currently under construction, the former Jumer’s Castle Lodge will become the company’s first supportive living community in Peoria on June 1, 2011.

Even amidst the state’s current economic turmoil, neither woman believes that the supportive living program is in danger of being cut. “I think we are going to suffer Medicaid cuts just like hospitals and nursing homes,” concluded Rumler, “but because of the long-range financial benefit we provide…I don’t see us ever going away.” iBi