But members of the bipartisan commissions aren't scared off by the
tall order due in a little over six weeks. As co-chair of the
Medicaid commission, state Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, said the
topic has been simmering on the back burner long enough.
an issue that's been discussed for years," said Righter. "There have
been studies done on this, there's been research on this, there's
been legislative proposal after legislative proposal on this."
As the state-federal health care program for the poor and
disabled, Medicaid makes up a sizable and growing portion of the
state's annual budget. About 2.6 million Illinois residents are
enrolled in the program, with an additional 700,000 expected to
become eligible in 2014, when the federal health care reform law
expands the program to include all residents making under 133
percent of the federal poverty level.
Righter said the 2014 expansion just adds to the urgency for
"So (let's) get our system in place and get it ready to try to
absorb that -- and I'm not sure we can anyway -- but let's put our
system in the best position possible to be able to deal with that,"
State officials have said new participants are expected to cost
the state about $200 million annually. Although the federal
government will initially pick up 100 percent of the costs of the
new enrollees, its contribution will gradually ratchet down to 90
percent after 2019.
Righter said implementing managed care in the Medicaid program --
where a patient is assigned to a single doctor who acts as a
gatekeeper for all health care, much like an HMO -- must be on the
The state already has a start, albeit small. About 195,000 of
Illinois' Medicaid patients are enrolled in voluntary managed care,
and a pilot program set to begin next year will serve an estimated
40,000 elderly and disabled patients, according to an Illinois
Healthcare and Family Services spokesman.
Medicaid commission co-chair state Sen. Heather Steans,
D-Chicago, also noted the state must move away from its
institutional care of the elderly, mentally ill and developmentally
"We way over-institutionalize in Illinois compared to other
states -- very heavy costs associated with that, and we lose out on
some Medicaid matching opportunities because of that," she said.
"You can really reform the way we provide some of those service
deliveries to get them in home and community-based settings (with)
better health care outcomes and a much lower cost for the state."
Those lower costs will contribute to an overall budget solution
to Illinois' expected $15 billion budget deficit next year, Steans
"We need a real budget," she said. "I think this really is part
of a comprehensive budget solution."
[to top of second column]
State Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, said workers' compensation reform
is part of a solution to Illinois' business and manufacturing woes.
"Illinois is now, I believe, third in the nation in workers'
compensation insurance cost to business and industry," said Haine,
who is serving on the commission charged with reforming the system.
"That simply cannot be sustained."
That's a drop from a ranking of 20th in the nation in 2006,
according to a report issued by the state of Oregon, said Mark
Denzler of the Illinois Manufacturers Association.
Haine said the recent relocation of an Alton bullet manufacturer
and its 1,000 jobs to Mississippi is rumored to be partly due to
high workers' compensation insurance the manufacturer had to pay
while in Illinois. But Illinois businesses don't have to look too
far to find cheaper costs, he said.
"We have to face the fact that the surrounding states are very
low in workers' compensation costs -- Missouri, Indiana, Iowa and
Wisconsin," he said. "That's a problem for us too."
But the problem with workers' compensation reform is the number
of parties involved -- employers, labor unions, doctors, hospitals,
clinics -- and the complex structure of compensation awarded to
But Denzler said he thinks the Senate effort is sincere.
"We believe Senate President Cullerton and Senate Minority Leader
Radogno are very serious about addressing the cost of workers'
compensation," he said.
But in six weeks?
"It's not what I'd hoped to do in December, but it's what I'm
going to be doing," Haine said.
Statehouse News; By MARY MASSINGALE]