Medicaid providers to Illinois Gov. Quinn: Why the expansion rush?


By Benjamin Yount | Illinois Watchdog

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — It looks like $5 billion is one heck of a motivator.

BIG TIME RUSH: Illinois is in a hurry to get $5 billion, radically change Medicaid.

Illinois is rushing toward an overhaul of its Medicaid system, even as the people tasked with caring for the sick, the old and the disabled are begging for the state to slow down.

“We’re disappointed in the lack of detail regarding implementation and oversight,” said Vicky Kean, a lobbyist representing United Cerebral Palsy of Illinois and 52 other Medicaid service providers. “It leaves us with more questions than answers.”

Kean wasn’t the only advocate at Friday’s public hearing begging Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration for details on what will happen to the nearly 3 million enrollees if Quinn gets permission for his planned massive Medicaid overhaul.

The governor wants to use a $5 billion infusion of up-front money to radically change how Illinois pays for health care for its most needed. Group homes for the disabled would be closed, more community care centers would be opened and Medicaid enrollees would be moved into a managed care system.

Michael Gelder, Quinn’s senior policy adviser on health care, explained that the governor has three goals with the massive Medicaid shake-up.

“To improve the health of the population, to improve the effectiveness of our health care delivery system and to reduce unnecessary costs,” Gelder told advocates at Friday’s public hearing.

But what does that mean?

STILL GONNA WORK? Advocates have serious concerns about the future of Medicaid.

Diane Drew, president of the Illinois Association of Community Care Providers, said no one knows.

And worse, Drew said, no one in the governor’s office is trying to explain.

“There has been no public discussion of operational details,” Drew said. “Important operational questions have been responded to with a standard response: ‘Details will be worked out later.’”

Drew said “later” may not be enough time for Illinois’ multitude of service providers to adjust to new rules.

Those new rules will include to-be-determined tax rates for providers, the acceptable number of Medicaid clients in a group home and even whether local public health departments will be considered “in network” for the state’s managed care system.

One thing that has been determined, Gelder said: Illinois will have to add hundreds or thousands of new (likely union) jobs.

“This is a very, very exciting opportunity that the governor wants us to use to get as much federal money in the state’s Medicaid program,” Gelder noted. “We can use that money to reinvest in our home and community based service programs, in expanding our workforce.”

The governor is expected to offer a few more details about the plan later next month when he delivers his budget.

Illinois still has to ask the federal government for permission to change the Medicaid program, and it’s unclear when that will happen or when the state will get an answer.

Contact Benjamin Yount at and find him on Twitter @BenYount.

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