ADMINISTRATION TO APPEAL ARBITRATOR’S RULING TO CANCEL STATE’S MAXIMUS CONTRACT
At a September 17 joint meeting of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, state officials said they plan to appeal an arbitrator’s ruling from June that would nullify the state’s contract with Maximus, the company hired to review the state’s Medicaid rolls to determine eligibility.
The hearing was called in response to the arbitrator’s ruling, which found that using a third party vendor to review Medicaid eligibility violates the state’s contract with AFSCME.
Senate Republican lawmakers emphasized the contract with Maximus to review Medicaid enrollee eligibility was a key component of the 2012 bipartisan Medicaid reform effort. According to Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) Director Julie Hamos, Maximus has reviewed approximately 15 percent of the state’s Medicaid cases and has already saved taxpayers $44 million.
At the hearing, Hamos stated the administration would seek to appeal the arbitrator's ruling while working to develop a "hybrid" system of redetermination utilizing both Maximus and state resources. Hamos emphasized HFS does not have the technology and resources available to Maximus, which would make the determination process significantly more difficult, time-consuming and costly for the state to take on.
As of Sept. 17, approximately 75,707 of the Medicaid cases Maximus has recommended for cancellation have been accepted by DHS; this amounts to roughly 125,000 ineligible individuals removed from the program. The state has accepted 70 percent of the Maximus recommendations to cancel Medicaid for individuals who do not qualify for benefits.
Lawmakers approved a bipartisan Medicaid reform package in 2012 as the program’s skyrocketing growth rapidly approached unsustainable levels. An active redetermination process to review Medicaid enrollees’ eligibility is a critical component of that process.
REVIEW OF STATE SCHOOL FINANCE SYSTEM ‘INEQUITABLE FOR STUDENTS AND TAXPAYERS’
The bipartisan Senate Advisory Committee on Education Funding held its second hearing on September 17 and heard an independent review of Illinois’ school finance system. The independent review confirmed many of the concerns the Senate Republicans have raised over the last year about the equability of the state’s system of funding education.
Of note, the report underscored there has been a marked shift away from the state’s use of formula grants, originally intended to equalize funding for Illinois schools. However, the state’s use of poverty grants has increased dramatically over the last ten years. In fact, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has confirmed that over the last decade poverty grant funding has increased from $300 million each year to $1.8 billion annually.
More concerning, a review of state education funding shows that while only 18 percent of the state’s students attend Chicago Public Schools (CPS), CPS receives 48 percent of the state’s poverty grants. The state’s steady increase in allocations to the poverty grant program is a funding decision that has occurred with limited review or input from policy makers or the public.
Poverty grants vary from school district to school district; however, some metropolitan schools receive nearly 8.5 times what some downstate schools get. CPS poverty grant students qualify for $3,000 in funds versus some downstate schools that only receive $355 per pupil. Senate GOP lawmakers agree that while high poverty schools require greater resources than those with much lower poverty rates, the significant disparity in the allocation of this funding merits greater review.
Senate Republicans also questioned why CPS receives guaranteed block grants each year for special education and early childhood education dollars. In contrast, downstate and suburban schools must submit paperwork to the State Board of Education in order to make a “claim” for those available dollars.
Interestingly, during the hearing ISBE Superintendent Christopher Koch confirmed that despite the popular notion that education funding has gone down in Illinois, it has increased 55 percent during the past decade when accounting for federal, state and local funding sources. That is an increase of 4.5 percent each year.
The next meeting of the Senate Advisory Committee on Education Funding is tentatively scheduled for mid-October. ISBE has announced intentions to provide guidance and suggestions on achieving desired outcomes based on the review of Illinois’ education funding system at the next hearing.