Darin LaHood

Illinois State Senator | 37th District

News Details

Medicaid Dominates Discussion

Friday, March 23, 2012

Though committee meetings consumed most lawmakers’ time this week, Senate legislators still remained focused on tackling some of Illinois’ more pressing issues. The state’s unsustainable Medicaid growth is one of the number one budget concerns facing Illinois, as state leaders seek to eliminate the program’s deficit, which is projected to top $21 billion in five years.

Seeking to learn more about federal Medicaid requirements and how other states approach their state-financed health care programs, the Senate convened a special Senate “Committee of the Whole” hearing March 22 for an in-depth Medicaid presentation by Joy Johnson Wilson, Health Policy Director of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

Ms. Wilson shared insight about how other states have tackled growing Medicaid debt in their state budgets, noting the main hurdle that each state shares lies within the Federal Affordable Care Act. Under the new federal law, changes to Medicaid eligibility standards, methodologies or procedures are prohibited until 2014. However, Wilson acknowledged that the prohibition has not yet been challenged or tested by any state.

Senate Republican lawmakers asked specific questions on how best to solve the growing Medicaid problem, raising questions regarding eligibility concerns and how best to reduce the growing backlog of bills to Medicaid providers.  

Ms. Wilson noted changes to optional programs, such as adult dental care, have provided the most flexibility for states seeking to cut Medicaid costs. Other states have also realized savings by reducing provider reimbursement rates; reducing the scope and/or duration of services; placing other restrictions on mandatory benefits; and expanding the use of co-payments. Improving management of prescription drug programs and durable medical equipment and supplies were also areas identified for potential cost-savings.  

Senate Republican members stressed that Illinois needs to identify ways to reduce the Medicaid program’s unsustainable growth and associated costs. According to the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, Fiscal Year 2013 funding for Medicaid will have to increase nearly $3 billion next year just to maintain the original bill backlog of $2.4 billion.

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