Illinois Fights Potential Hike in Funding for Disabilities Care

Advocates for people with disabilities living outside of institutions said Illinois is violating a federal consent decree by failing to provide required services due to insufficient funding.

(Reuters) — Illinois fought on Friday against a potential court order it contends could cost the state, which just ended an unprecedented budget impasse, as much as an additional $1 billion annually to care for people with developmental disabilities.

In arguments before U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman, advocates for people with disabilities living outside of institutions said Illinois is violating a federal consent decree by failing to provide required services due to insufficient funding.

The state maintained that even with the enactment last month of its first full budget in two years along with a tax hike, it still lacks enough money to pay off a more than $14 billion backlog in bills.

Additional funding to comply with the consent decree would have to be squeezed from existing spending on services for people with developmental disabilities or from other unrelated programs, according to a court filing by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.

Brent Stratton, chief deputy Illinois Attorney General, told the judge the fiscal 2018 budget allocated $53 million for the first rate increase for developmental disabilities services since 2008. He said Illinois is in “substantial compliance” with the decree and that the funding boost should be allowed to play out.

“The court has the power to enforce the consent decree, but there is a limit,” Stratton said. “The court can’t order us to increase rates.”

Another U.S. judge ordered Illinois in June to increase payments to $586 million a month for Medicaid providers that were owed more than $3 billion for caring for poor residents and residents with disabilities covered under a separate federal consent decree.

A stalemate between Illinois’ Republican governor and Democrats who control the legislature left the nation’s fifth-largest state operating on spending ordered by courts and mandated by Illinois law for two-straight years.

Lawyers for residents with developmental disabilities pointed to a $5 billion income rate increase Illinois enacted in July to bolster its sagging budget, saying that money could be tapped in the future to fund services.

In addition to seeking a ruling of noncompliance with the consent decree against the state, the lawyers also want the judge to order Illinois to produce a detailed plan on how it will comply with the decree.

“Cost is what this all comes down to,” said Judge Johnson Coleman, who raised concerns about siphoning money from other state funding priorities.

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One comment

  • It’s a traumatic event for anyone being denied equality and protection. To literally be ignored when experiencing suffering and frustration for something completely out of your control is ignorant and hateful. These evil decisions most likely occurs because those disenfranchising the masses when it comes to disabilities don’t encounter and deal with people struggling to live with these issues day to day and don’t have to worry about these issues themselves on a reoccurring basis.

    My now home state Texas has a disabled governor (Governor Abbott). He’s permanently restricted to a wheel chair and most people aren’t aware of this. Governor Abbott has a considerable amount of wealth as well as the people he conducts business with on a daily basis. The irony of this he’s made the decision that it’s not worth announcing he’s disabled and a man of character to fight for people in similar situations as himself. His politics are different than his physical disabled condition. My opinion on this is “Texas Bravado”.

    But all that aside if you have the means to avoid pitfalls dealing with maneuvering around your disabilities or don’t need to do it all, in most cases those people to include myself are considerably stuck in a reality that isn’t real and without empathy to truly understand life as seen if disabled.

    There should never be a stalemate or debate as to making people’s lives better for a condition out of their hands in the first place.

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