By Benjamin Yount | Illinois Watchdog
SPRINGFIELD — Illinois will continue looking at each of the 2.7 million people on Medicaid, trying figure out who doesn’t belong in the program despite a lawsuit from the state’s largest public employee union.
Illinois’ Health and Human Services Director Julie Hamos said Tuesday the state will appeal a ruling that would force the state to essentially stop its Medicaid scrubbing program, which is being done by a private contractor.
“We believe ending this contract … would not best serve the interest of Illinois taxpayers,” Hamos told a state legislative panel. “We do plan to appeal the decision of the arbitrator.”
That arbitrator ruled in favor of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees labor union, saying Illinois could have offered the work of scrubbing the Medicaid rolls to state employees, who are members of the union.
The arbitrator based his decision, in part, on wording in the Medicaid scrubbing legislation that said Illinois “may” hire an outside company. The arbitrator noted the law did not say Illinois “shall.”
Hamos said the contract with Virginia-based Maximus has “helped the state.”
“So far, the result of the Maximus work this calendar year has resulted in scrubbing the Medicaid rolls by about 115,000 people,” Hamos said.
Maximus in June had only reviewed about 200,000 of Illinois’ 2.7 million Medicaid clients. At the time, the company found about one in three people receiving Medicaid did not belong in the system.
“One of out of every five Illinoisans is one Medicaid. One out of three children are on Medicaid. And 50 percent of all births in Illinois are on Medicaid,” state Rep. Patti Bellock said Wednesday.
And that is before Illinois adds people to Medicaid as part of the Obamacare expansion, she said..
“You’re talking about 2.7 million people on this program now, and you’re going to expand it, by January 1, adding between 300,000 and 700,000 new people,” Bellock calculated.
Maximus not only has people on the job, Bellock and Hamos agreed, but the company has its own computer database and information system that the state of Illinois cannot replicate.
But AFSCME boss Henry Bayer is not giving up. Bayer still wants 200 new state employees to do the job. He told lawmakers shifting the work back to the state could save “millions.”
Hamos left the door open to a “hybrid” agreement that would use both Maximus and state employees.
Illinois law requires that a state employee make the final determination when someone is culled from the Medicaid rolls.
The 115,000 people already scrubbed from Medicaid have been removed from the program, and Bellock said some of those people are also being scrubbed from Illinois’ other public assistance programs.
“Maximus is also looking at (the SNAP program) and they’ve removed thousands and thousands of people off that,” Bellock added.
Nearly 2 million people in Illinois are on food stamps.
Contact Benjamin Yount at [email protected] or find him on Twitter @BenYount.