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Are the uninsured getting Obamacare coverage in Illinois?

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[December 14, 2013]  By Benjamin Yount

SPRINGFIELD (Illinois Watchdog) There's no question few people are signing up for Obamacare in Illinois, just 7,043 have selected a plan. But are Illinois' uninsured signing up for coverage?

NOBODY NEW: Syverson says people with insurance are simply switching plans under Obamacare.

"All they're doing is just re-enrolling the same people who are currently insured into a new plan, that is more expensive, (and) that taxpayers have to subsidize," state Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, said.

Syverson said Illinois is simply rolling its own high-risk insurance pool, people in the Illinois Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan, or I-CHIP program, into the Obamacare marketplace.

I-CHIP was started in 1994 to help people in Illinois with pre-existing conditions find insurance. But since Obamacare requires insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions, many of the people enrolled in I-CHIP will move to Obamacare.

SHRINKING I-CHIP: Mautino says I-CHIP is telling people to head to Obamacare.

"I-CHIP is actually encouraging people to move to the marketplace," state Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, told Illinois Watchdog. "Our enrollment numbers are at about 19,000, down from about 21,000."

On Oct. 3, just days after Obamacare launched, 20,636 were enrolled in I-CHIP. As of Dec. 13, 19,834 people remained in the program. Mautino said more people are dropping out of I-CHIP each day.

I-CHIP is canceling one of its insurance plans and notices went out in October. The program is ending the federal subsidy for four other plans.

Mautino said Illinois will continue to offer some high-risk insurance, unless the Illinois General Assembly votes to end the I-CHIP plan, though there are no plans to do that.

Still Syverson said, if Obamacare is simply replacing I-CHIP, who is being helped?

"As I said, (we've) added virtually nobody, except for expanding Medicaid, but on the health insurance side we've not added anybody," Syverson said. "But we have spent millions and millions of dollars creating this big bureaucracy."

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Illinois spent about $100 million to create its state-federal partnership exchange. The state spent another $50 million to hire outreach specialists, navigators and a marketing team.

The only "success" Illinois can tout is the massive growth in Medicaid. The state has added more than 125,000 people to Illinois' Medicaid rolls, in some cases going to prisons and jails to find them.

Syverson said Illinois is going to go broke when that bill comes due.

"You think the federal government can pick up that whole cost for the next two years and then 90 percent (in) year three? It's not possible for the federal government to do that," Syverson said. "There are going to be changes. The states will be stuck having to pick up a large number of these costs."

Illinois will spend more than $12 billion of its own money on Medicaid in the current budget. The Medicaid expansion is expected to add $700 million to that total next year, and add another $1.3 billion to the state's Medicaid tab within five years. If the federal government changes how it pays for Medicaid, Illinois could see those costs climb to $6 billion.

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

[This article courtesy of Illinois Watchdog.]

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