Illinois Senate wants to create caregiver demonstration project

Meagan Sexton

The Illinois Senate unanimously approved a plan Wednesday to create a "spousal caregiver" demonstration project that would provide information about how much it would cost the state to let full-time spousal caregivers receive Medicaid payments.

The legislation, a reworked version of Senate Bill 2112, will "limit the scope" of the original version of the bill, said its sponsor, Sen. David Koehler, D-Peoria.

SB2112 was originally inspired by two Peoria-area women, Kathi Kupferschmid and Stefanie Eklund, who are 24-hour caregivers for their disabled husbands. In Illinois and most other states, full-time spousal caregivers cannot receive Medicaid.

Koehler said he created the demonstration project as a compromise to better manage the costs and the scope of the project and at the same time move forward with it.

"This is something that has good bipartisan support and I think that it’s going to prove not as much cost as people think, and it’s going to add a real quality of life element to people in that situation," Koehler said.

Kupferschmid, of East Peoria, was told she could receive caregiver payments only by divorcing her husband, Dennis. He has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, which has paralyzed everything but his eyelids.

Eklund, of Knoxville, married Bryan Eklund, for whom she’d been a paid caregiver, even though she knew she would lose about $1,800 in monthly Medicaid payments.

If the legislation becomes law, the Department of Human Services will be required to provide an interim report by March 1, 2009, to the governor and the General Assembly that includes the progress on the development of the demonstration project and implementation timelines.

By March 1, 2010, the department would report its findings and recommendations. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration. To become law, it must pass there and be signed by the governor.

Meagan Sexton can be reached at (217) 782-6882 or