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Obamacare overwhelming Illinois’ bloated Medicaid system

By   /   February 28, 2014  /   No Comments

By Benjamin Yount | Illinois Watchdog

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. —  Under Obamacare, Medicaid expansion was supposed to add no more than 500,000 people to the rolls in Illinois over the next couple of years.

Supposed to.

IT ADDS UP: Illinois’ Medicaid system is being flooded by Obamacare enrollees.

Medicaid managers now say they will see almost that many by year’s end.

“We told you all along that we expected about 509,000 people to enroll in Medicaid post-ACA,” Illinois Health Care and Family Services Director Julie Hamos told lawmakers Thursday. “We now see that 430,000 could enroll by the end of this calendar year.”

Illinois has added 315,000 people to Medicaid since Jan. 1. Here’s a breakdown:

  • 36,000 people were enrolled when they applied for food stamps
  • 93,000 people were added through a special County Care program in Cook County
  • 104,000 people have been added through the state’s Obamacare exchange
  • 82,000 have been added through the federal Obamacare website, healthcare.org

“That’s 315,000 right now. We thought we’re going to be at 200,000 this year,” Hamos said.

State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Rochelle, knew Illinois would see a flood of people enroll in Medicaid, but these numbers surprise even him.

“We saw (numbers) from outside organizations to expect well over 500,000 people, maybe as many as 750,000 people,” Demmer told Illinois Watchdog.

But it’s not just the overwhelming that worry Republicans like Demmer.

The federal government has promised to pay all of the costs for newly eligible Medicaid enrollees, mostly young men who live close to the poverty line.

Illinois has plenty of those, but what about the rest? The other 115,000 or so, Hamos said, are either in the system or will soon enroll, potentially costing Illinois taxpayers hundreds of millions.

“This is a very key budget point to look at,” Demmer said. “Of those who have signed up … a portion of those are previously eligible people for which the state has to pay 50 percent of the costs.”

Illinois will spend $13 billion on Medicaid this year. That price tag will automatically grow by $669 million next year, without accounting for the new Medicaid enrollees.

“We haven’t really gotten an answer on that,” Demmer said.

Hamos promised lawmakers she’s working to have the costs in time for Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget. The governor pushed back his budget address until after the March primary.

Thing is, lawmakers also want to know how much has been saved through Illinois’ 2012 Medicaid reforms.

“We have not reached the $1.6 billion savings target,” Hamos said. “That estimate was revised to $1.1 billion in savings (in March). We are re-evaluating now.”

Hamos said Illinois has saved $220 million by changing how — and how much — it pays hospitals to care for Medicaid enrolles.

That’s an easy, one-time decision, Demmer said, but he wants to know how much the state could save by properly trimming Illinois’ Medicaid system.

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

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