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Advocates Uneasy As Rauner Modifies Plan To Protect Services For Seniors, Disabled

Advocates for senior citizens and people with disabilities are assessing how action Friday by the Republican governor affects services they say they depend on.

Early this year, Gov. Bruce Rauner unveiled a plan to save money, by making it harder for the elderly and disabled individuals to qualify for government aid.

People not deemed needy enough would no longer receive state-provided home care workers, or state-paid nursing home care.

The legislature didn't like that idea, and passed a measure that would require eligibility remain at the status quo.

Rauner could have used his veto pen to reject the bill outright. Instead, he amended it.

On its face, it appears Rauner is limiting coverage to either home, or nursing home, care. "For too long, Illinois has over-prescribed institutional care to lower-need individuals when less expensive and more appropriate care options are available," he wrote in his veto message. "An individual with the threshold score should be entitled to institutional or home and community-based care."

But the AARP and other advocates say they're still analyzing -- it could be that the governor's changes would run afoul of federal law, or that it's a different way of meeting his initial, tougher eligibility goal.

The measure's sponsor, Rep. Greg Harris, a Chicago Democrat, says he's reviewing it too.

"We need to be very careful, because this is too important a topic to not study very carefully and look at all the implications of," Harris said shortly after Rauner's action was made public.

Lawmakers could revisit the measure on Tuesday, when they meet for a one day session. They could do nothing and allow the bill (in any form) to die; a majority of legislators from both chambers would enable it to become law as written by Rauner; or a supermajority vote in the House and then in the Senate would enact the law in its original form.

Harris says no decision has been made yet on the path forward.

While Republicans have generally sided with the governor on legislation like this, that's related to the budget, six GOP House members stood with Democrats to pass House Bill 2482, giving it 74 "aye" votes -- three more than would be needed to override a gubernatorial veto, if -- and there's no guarantee or requirement they will -- they stick with their initial stance.

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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