GOP: Quinn administration slow to review Medicaid eligibility


SPRINGFIELD -- Some Republican members of the Illinois General Assembly accused Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration Monday of dragging its feet on making cost-saving changes to the state’s Medicaid program.

In particular, they said the administration has been slow to begin reviewing Medicaid rolls to eliminate people who do not qualify for benefits.

“To date, they have not even started the process,” said House Republican Leader Tom Cross of Oswego. “We’re now told it won’t be until January of next year that they will start the implementation of ‘scrubbing.’ To put this off until January is unacceptable.”

Lawmakers last spring adopted a series of measures to close a $2.7 billion gap in the Medicaid budget. That included $1.6 billion in cuts and other cost savings, $700 million from a tobacco tax hike coupled with federal matching funds, $100 million from a hospital assessment program and $300 million from state taxes that came in higher than expected.

The cost-saving measure included a proposal to hire a company to review Medicaid rolls and remove people who don’t qualify for benefits because they make too much money or do not live in the state.

How much money that might save is only a guess. The bipartisan group of lawmakers who crafted the Medicaid reform package agreed to a target of $350 million.

“The governor’s office was an active participant in all of those meetings,” said Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon. “They agreed the rolls needed to be scrubbed. People who make too much money or don’t live in the state shouldn’t be on the Medicaid program. They agree with that.”

Righter and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont said they fear the administration will ask for more money for Medicaid in coming months because it hasn’t carried out the cost-savings measures quickly enough.

“There’s no more money to be spent on the Medicaid program,” Righter said. “The only answer, we’ll come back in the fall or spring and the cutting process will begin again.”

The Department of Healthcare and Family Services, which administers Medicaid, said the verification process is “well within the time frame mandated by the new law.” The state last Thursday finalized a contract with Maximus Health Services to conduct the review. The company gets paid on a per-case basis and is expected to earn about $76.8 million during the two-year contract.

DHFS spokesman Mike Claffey said the company is in the process of training workers and doing other preparation work so eligibility verification can begin Jan. 1.

“For them to just come in overnight and set up shop is not reasonable,” Claffey said. “We’re getting it done in a phenomenally short period of time.”

DHFS finalized the contract within the 90-day time period set out in law, he said.

Claffey would not speculate on whether DHFS can achieve $350 million in savings by scrubbing its Medicaid rolls.

“We think that’s a very aggressive target,” Claffey said.

Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527.