Numbers don’t lie: In Illinois, Affordable Care Act means Medicaid

By Benjamin Yount
Illinois Watchdog

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — You could fit all the people in Illinois who have signed up for private insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace — all 1,370 of them — into a small high school.

Meanwhile, nearly 15 times that number, or 19,447, have been pushed into Medicaid through Illinois’ ACA portal.

When Illinois talks about the ACA, it really means Medicaid.

This is nothing more than a colossal Medicaid expansion,” Naomi Lopez-Baumen, vice president of health policy for the Illinois Policy Institute, told Illinois Watchdog. “The idea that (the ACA) was intended to provide private health insurance to people was quite misleading.

Lopez-Baumen said federal Health and Human Services figures expect 75 percent of the nation’s uninsured to get their health coverage through Medicaid.

Illinois is in the middle of a mammoth outreach effort that stretches from Chicago’s hospitals to the state’s prisons.

As of last week, Mike Claffey, the health care spokesman for Illinois, said the state has approved 34,517 applications for Medicaid, which came from the more than 100,000 invitations to enroll sent to Illinois’ food stamp recipients.

Illinois also added 100,000 people in Chicago and Cook County in last year’s ACA early enrollment. The state has also targeted 28,000 parolees for Medicaid.

All told, Illinois could have 3 million people — nearly one in four in the state — on Medicaid when ACA officially begins Jan 1.

In 2014, we’re going to see what is the largest tax increase on working families in Illinois history with the shift of these increased health costs,” said state Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford.

Syverson said Illinois spent $12 billion on Medicaid last year and he expects Illinois’ costs to jump to $13 billion next year. Syverson hopes the federal government never stops paying 90 percent or more of the cost for the new Medicaid enrollees.

Just like every other federal program where they have promised to cover (the costs), they will change their mind,” Syverson said. “This is an expense that is going to go back to the states in a few years. And it is something that the states clearly can’t afford.”

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

Posted Nov. 15, 2013

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