Editor’s note: Benjamin Yount is a reporter for Illinois Watchdog, an affiliate of the conservative Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity and overseen by the free-market Idaho Freedom Foundation. The Franklin Center is a multimillion-dollar organization that offers free statehouse reporting to local newspapers. The center is funded by major conservative donors. The Rock River Times occasionally publishes items from this source, as coverage of the Illinois General Assembly is relevant. However, readers should be aware of possible bias in reporting — as they should be with any news item.
By Benjamin Yount
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is doing what it was designed to do in Illinois — adding thousands upon thousands of people to the state’s Medicaid rolls.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) said Oct. 15 that about 100,000 people have enrolled through the ACA. Almost all of those people were early enrollees last year, and each one of them enrolled in Medicaid.
“One-hundred-thousand people in Cook County have signed up for County Care, the early enrollment (Medicaid) program,” said Mike Claffey, a spokesman for the state Department of Insurance. “All those people will be transitioned into the Medicaid portion of the ACA come Jan. 1.”
County Care is a special ACA trial program only for those people who reside in Cook County.
So what about the rest of Illinois, and the people going to Illinois’ ACA marketplace?
“More than 14,000 have submitted applications for the state’s expanded Medicare program,” a news release from Claffey’s office noted.
The state, however, has no idea how many people may have signed up for private insurance through the marketplace. Claffey said those numbers would have to come from Washington, D.C.
State Rep. Patti Bellock, R-Hinsdale, said she is not surprised Quinn is touting the addition of more than 100,000 people to Medicaid.
“We presumed that at least 350,000 would come onto Medicaid under the expansion,” Bellock said. “And my expectation is that the number will be somewhere between 500,000 to 700,000 people.”
Bellock is the GOP point person on Medicaid in the Illinois House of Representatives. She believes accepting that many people into Medicaid is a huge risk.
“We want to provide care for the most vulnerable population in Illinois,” Bellock said. “But the expansion is going to cost us a lot more money, even if it is federally matched.”
The federal government promised Illinois — and other states that have expanded their Medicaid eligibility — that Washington will pay 100 percent of the cost for newly eligible Medicaid patients for three years, and 90 percent of the costs after that — unless Congress changes its mind.
“If in these debt ceiling talks, Congress pares (the extra match) back to 65 percent, which is what President Obama has suggested the last two years, you would be looking at a $6.5 billion cost to the state of Illinois,” Bellock said.
Illinois spends $12 billion on Medicaid each year. The federal match bumps that up to about $17 billion.
Bellock said even with the extra federal money, Illinois still will see its Medicaid costs rise about $1 billion a year.
The state also has a huge problem of providing Medicaid to those who should not receive it. A private review of the state’s Medicaid rolls found that about a third on Medicaid are ineligible.
Bellock expects that number to grow with the Medicaid expansion.
“Because they are so backed up and so hurried, (the federal Healthcare and Human Services office) said they were just going to let people use the honor system,” Bellock said.
That means no income verification or residency check for those enrolling in Medicaid in Illinois.
Bellock has asked for monthly reports to check up on Medicaid enrollment, and said she hopes the private review of the state’s health care program can act as some kind of check to the expansion of the ACA.
Contact Benjamin Yount at BYoung@Watchdog.org and find him on Twitter at @BenYount.
Posted Oct. 16, 2013