Column: Yorkville senior fights to get bigger personal needs allowance for seniors on Medicaid – Chicago Tribune

As the president of the Residents Council of Heritage Woods in Yorkville, 80-year-old Gloria Deizman is on a crusade.

And she’s not going to give it up until she gets some resolution which at least includes the attention of folks in Springfield who are tasked with looking out for the citizens of this state, especially the most vulnerable.

Deizman, a retired Realtor and now outspoken leader of her peers, includes herself in that category.

That’s because she, like the vast majority of residents in this Yorkville assisted living facility, lives on a very fixed income. In her case, the 2007 recession threw a wrench in her retirement plans, which now include relying on Medicaid to get her through these years.

According to the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, each Medicaid-eligible resident in supportive living facilities – an alternative to nursing homes which offer personal care and other services while residents can still live independently and take part in decision-making – must have income equal to or greater than the current Supplemental Security Income level and must contribute all but $90 each month to the provider for lodging, meals and services.

This $90 personal needs allowance (or PNA) is intended to cover personal expenses not covered by Medicaid.

The problem: Good ole inflation.

Diezman tells me that by the time she pays for cable, phone and internet, she’s left with about $12. Which didn’t go all that far a few years ago and now, is “getting so ridiculous there’s no money to even buy an ice cream bar,” she insists.

“I see all these residents who have nothing. I listen to the things they have done in their previous lives – they were all paying taxes, making a living. The state gives everything else away to everyone else,” she says. “But they forget about the seniors.

“I can’t imagine that there aren’t thousands of people impacted by this.”

Cheri Papa may not see thousands, but as resident services coordinator at Heritage Woods, where the vast majority are on Medicaid, she certainly sees plenty.

The facility provides three meals a day, but if residents “want a bowl of fruit or peanut butter sandwich for a snack, that comes from their own pockets,” she told me.

And, while “we have many good families here” who can provide their seniors with extra spending money for those trips to Walmart or Target or eating out at a restaurant, some don’t have that option, Papa continued, or are too proud to ask loved ones for money because they want to hold on to their independence.

“That’s where it gets hard,” she said, adding that she tries to provide extras out of her activities budget when possible.

All of us, of course, have been hit by inflation. In a grocery store recently, state Rep. Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego, told me he took one look at the price of a bag of chips his daughter requested – $6.49 – and made her put them back on the shelf.

It’s no wonder he offered a sympathetic ear when Deizman finally got a hold of the Republican state representative of the 50th District.

After looking into her concerns, Wheeler was not sure how long the $90 allowance has been on the books but told me it seemed to be quite a number of years. (A spokesperson with Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services could not confirm by press time “the date that amount took effect.”)

Impressed with Deizman’s passion, the state rep from Oswego promised to “do more homework” but warned that increasing the PNA “won’t be an easy task” as it likely will be opposed by some in the supportive living industry.

Wheeler does see a “path forward,” however, in changing the code by “tying the issue to inflation.”

Every cause needs a champion for change to occur, he reminded me, noting that another Yorkville crusader, whose daughter was gang-raped at a party, stepped forward a few years ago to work with him on getting House Bill 2135 passed in 2019 that removed the statute of limitations for sexual assault crimes in Illinois.

While it would be easy to dismiss comparisons between a crime bill and one that would put more spending money in the pockets of Medicaid’s elderly, “what Gloria is asking for is still important,” Wheeler insisted, noting how much seniors rely on cable, internet and phones to communicate.

It comes down to more than just quality of life, of course. It’s also about dignity.

“Yes, I live in a beautiful place, I have a roof over my head and three meals a day. So people might want to know what I’m complaining about,” Deizman said, adding that she is also “blessed” with a daughter who tries to help when possible.

“But there are some here who don’t have families and are really struggling,” she insisted. “These are the things that break my heart.”

Which is the reason the president of the Residents Council at Heritage Woods in Yorkville won’t stop listening and certainly won’t stop crusading.

“I hope,” she said, “this opens the door to a much-needed conversation.”

Ino Saves New

via rk2’s favorite articles on Inoreader

September 11, 2022 at 07:07PM

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