LEGISLATORS CUT PAY
In response to Illinois’ bleak fiscal outlook, I have, for the third year in a row, voted to voluntarily reduce legislative pay and forego cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) in Fiscal Year 2013 – which is expected to save the state more than $1 million.
House Bill 3188 requires every lawmaker to forfeit 12 days of compensation through furlough days.
The bill also prohibits COLAs from being awarded to members of the General Assembly, elected executive officers, and state’s attorneys, and advances per diem changes to reduce costs associated with legislative travel expenses, including food, lodging and gas reimbursements.
AUDIT REVEALS PROBLEMS WITH CONTRACTS
The Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS) was taken to task by the Auditor General during the week for its handling of a multi-billion dollar health insurance contract, and public hearings begin in response to Governor Pat Quinn’s proposed closure of 14 state facilities.
Following a critical audit of the state’s procurement of health insurance vendors, released March 7, I called for an immediate suspension of the process of selecting vendors for state-administered supplemental HMO insurance coverage. I serve on the Legislative Audit Commission, the agency which oversees the State Audit Program.
State Auditor General Bill Holland blasted DHFS for its handling of a five-year, $6.6 billion contract that was awarded to Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) in 2011 to administer HMO plans for more than 400,000 enrollees. The audit provided a disturbing summary, outlining the Quinn Administration’s failure to comply with the procurement code and provisions of the Ethics Commission.
The audit concluded there were “serious deficiencies” in how the contract was awarded, “including the disregard for following evaluation procedures and lack of documentation to support how the recommendation to award changed.” Auditors also found that DHFS awarded BCBS contracts in 20 counties it did not even bid on, and that BCBS had zero primary care physicians located in 24 counties that it was awarded.
Additionally, Mercer, the consulting firm utilized by the Department to assist with the bidding process, had business relationships with all the companies bidding for the contracts. The audit criticized DHFS for failing to disclose Mercer’s relationships with the bidders.
And while the Department said the contract with BCBS would result in long-term savings for the state of more than $1 billion, the audit questioned the reliability of that number. As a result, the auditor determined that “we are unable to conclude whether the State’s best interests were achieved” by DHFS, as related to the health insurance procurements.
Noting the “Request For Proposals” (RFP) process should be halted until the Illinois Legislative Audit Commission can take a closer look at Holland’s findings, I sent a letter to Governor Quinn on March 8, asking him to suspend the RFP process for determining supplemental healthcare procurement. I also asked Illinois Legislative Audit Commission Executive Director Jane Stricklin to schedule a hearing March 21 on the issue.
PUBLIC HEARING ON FACILITY CLOSURES
Hundreds of interested citizens attended the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) meeting March 7 for a public hearing on Governor Quinn’s proposed closure of Jacksonville Development Center.
As part of his budget proposal, the Governor has proposed shutting 14 state facilities and consolidating several more. Proposed closures extend to 10 correctional facilities, transitional centers and juvenile justice centers, as well as four state mental health and developmental center closures.
Governor Quinn’s plan to close the mental health and developmental disability (MH/DD) facilities is generating quite a bit of controversy. Some people want to close the MH/DD facilities, saying that the patients will receive better quality of care in a more intimate, home-based setting. However, others contend that many of the patients at the MH/DD facilities have extreme disabilities that require the 24-hour care found in the institutional setting.
As the Administration proceeds with plans to close state facilities, the public is encouraged to provide feedback to COGFA. The Commission is in charge of the facility closure process, and is tasked with holding public hearings regarding every proposed closure and providing the Governor with an advisory opinion on how to proceed.
Members of the public interested in speaking at upcoming hearings or simply providing written testimony can send that information via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
LAWMAKERS WORK TOWARD COMMITTEE DEADLINE
In other action, Senate and House committees met throughout the week as lawmakers acted on hundreds of bills to meet a March 9 deadline.
A complete list of bills approved by Senate Committees during the week is available at www.senategop.state.il.us and can be accessed on the “Senate Committee Action” page. This site will be frequently updated with daily Senate action when the Senate is in session.
On March 5, I attended the Illinois Hospital Association legislative update luncheon.
Hospital administrators from around the state talked with us about their concerns and asked questions about a number of bills pending before the Senate and House of Representatives.