Quinn, Republican lawmakers battle over Medicaid reform

Some lawmakers are accusing the governor of making a secret deal to remove a company that was eliminating fraud in the healthcare program.
December 17, 2013 3:31:20 PM PST
There was a war of words between Republican lawmakers and Governor Pat Quinn over Medicaid reform. Some lawmakers are accusing the governor of making a secret deal to remove a company that was eliminating fraud in the healthcare program.

Actually, an arbitrator ruled the private company could not do state work already under union contract. The governor is being criticized for not fighting the arbitrator's ruling in court.

"This is one of the first concrete contracts that we can point to that has actually done what we wanted it to do," said State Rep. Patti Bellock, R-Hinsdale.

The Republican lawmakers cannot believe that beginning next spring, Illinois will no longer use a private consulting firm to review Medicaid eligibility.

"Every five people who are examined? Two are being found ineligible. Forty percent. That's a stunning number," said State Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon.

Medicaid-- a $15 billion program-- was nearing bankruptcy 19 months ago when state lawmakers passed reform legislation. The package provided for the Virginia-based Maximus Firm to examine all Medicaid recipients. The company's work has not impressed activist Francis Tobin.

"We don't know how many people are actually ineligible. But what we know is that thousands at least are eligible people who are losing their healthcare and they don't find out about it until they go to see a doctor," said Tobin.

Earlier this year, an arbitrator ruled the state had violated a union contract when it hired the private company. And on Tuesday, the governor signed an agreement to return the eligibility work to state employees.

Senator Righter calls it a "backroom deal" and says the state should have fought the union in court.

"The state has given up the ability in front of the arbitrator or at the appellate level to fight for the reforms that it embraced and it agreed to," said Sen. Righter.

"That isn't the case. The fact of the matter is I respect everyone but I don't want to spend the rest of my life in court," said Gov. Quinn.

Under the governor's deal with the union, state workers will make Medicaid eligibility decisions by mid-2014.

The Republican lawmakers say they'll introduce legislation next year to rehire the private company.