QUINN ADMINISTRATION DELAY REFORMS
The Quinn Administration recently announced its intentions to push back completion of an important Medicaid reform that could save the state $350 million each year—an unnecessary delay that could blow a hole in the state budget.
Governor Pat Quinn must implement, without delay, the bipartisan Medicaid reform law passed during the spring. This reform is expected to scrub as many as 300,000 ineligible individuals off the Medicaid rolls, save the state $350 million, and ensure Medicaid assistance remains available to low-income and disabled residents who rely on the programs and services.
The Quinn Administration appears to be dragging its heels on implementation of a provision that requires the state to utilize a private vendor to review eligibility based on ability to pay and residency. However, Administration officials recently announced their intention to delay implementation of this provision until January 2013, a full six months into the state’s current fiscal year.
The Medicaid reform law has tight timeframes for the procurement of the eligibility verification vendor to ensure that the eligibility reviews begin in a timely manner. The requirements for an initial procurement to be conducted within 60 days, and for a contract to be signed within 30 days of a vendor being selected, have been met, but delays in eligibility reviews becoming operational pose the potential to hinder this crucial reform.
WHAT DELAY MEANS TO BUDGET
The current budget was crafted with the assumption the state would achieve $350 million in cost savings through the timely implementation of the reform. Any delay in moving forward with the eligibility verification reform will not only blow a hole in the budget, but will threaten funding for the eligible individuals and families who need assistance.
A letter detailing our concerns was sent to the Quinn Administration, and House Resolution 1225 was also filed urging the eligibility measures and standards to be fully operational by October 1, 2012. The resolution also requested the Department of Healthcare and Family Services provide a monthly briefing to the Legislative Medicaid Advisory Committing on the implementation status of the reform.
The Medicaid reform law also contains dozens of other reforms that total nearly $1.3 billion. These reforms also need to be implemented during the current fiscal year.
ILLINOIS COMPANIES CONTINUE LAYOFFS
A recent report by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) shows that eight months into 2012, Illinois companies have already laid off more than 10,000 employees. The August figures also show that seven Illinois companies plan to lay off another 1,100 workers.
The expected layoffs identified by DCEO touch virtually every area of the state and included facilities in Roanoke, LaSalle, Mount Vernon, Libertyville and Benton.
The economic recession is a central factor in poor business performance, layoffs and unemployment around the nation; however, an additional factor in Illinois’ slow recovery is a decidedly anti-business environment that is not conducive to employers starting or expanding their businesses.
Tax hikes, deficit spending, failure to pass critical reforms in workers’ compensation and other areas, a legal environment that fosters lawsuits and uncertainty about the ability of the state to meet its obligations have all contributed to a weakened jobs climate in Illinois, with the state frequently lagging behind its neighbors in job creation and employment.
State government’s role should be one of assistance, not interference. But, beginning with the election of Rod Blagojevich and continuing under Pat Quinn, the focus has consistently been on increased regulation, adding new costs and raising taxes on employers. The result has been a slower pace of recovery for Illinois than in other states.
Not surprisingly, the Illinois Department of Employment Security reported on September 20 that unemployment across the state increased in August to 9.1 percent, the third straight increase after nine months of declines. July’s rate was 8.9 percent.
PRISONS REACH RECORD NUMBER OF PRISONERS
Associated Press (AP) reports during the week revealed that Illinois prisons have reached a record number of prisoners, now housing more than 49,000 inmates.
The facilities are designed to hold no more than 33,700 inmates.
The Department of Corrections (DOC) has disputed the AP’s numbers although they were obtained from the DOC’s public Web site.
At a time when the Governor has considered closing multiple state correctional facilities, the trend of overcrowding poses a serious concern.