Preview of Coming Attractions? Illinois’ Medicaid Disaster

Today the Chicago Tribune reports on Illinois’ collapsing Medicaid program. The focus of the story is the impact that proposed Medicaid cuts and the end of property tax exemptions will have on many local hospitals.

Children’s Memorial Hospital would be faced with a $37 million to $50 million hole in its budget.

Norwegian American Hospital could be forced to close.

Swedish Covenant Hospital’s chief executive says the entire health care system in Illinois would be pushed to the verge of collapse.

A confluence of proposed cuts to the state’s Medicaid program and the specter that some hospitals may be forced to start paying millions each year in property taxes has Illinois hospitals on their heels.

Already stressed by declining government payments for Medicare, some hospital executives fear the latest threats to their balance sheets could prove a knockout blow. And as the issues inch closer, they’re increasingly sounding the alarm, trying to galvanize support from legislators, advocates and others to help make their case.

On Medicaid, she [Governor Quinn’s spokesperson] said, “We are looking at a problem so great that if we do not make the program sustainable this year, we are looking at a possible collapse of the Medicaid system. That, ultimately, would do a great deal of harm to providers and is what we are trying to avoid through making the system sustainable.”

Medicaid enrollment has increased nearly 100 percent since 2006, fueled largely by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich‘s All Kids health insurance program, which extended coverage to all children from families earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. For an Illinois family of four in 2012, that equated to about $69,000.

Illinois is more than $2 billion behind in payments to Medicaid providers, and payments can take more than four months to process, state officials said. Projections call for those figures to double if no action is taken. Proposed changes include limiting eligibility, reducing covered services, cutting prescription drug coverage for adults and eliminating hospice programs.

Rod Blagojevich’s name is mentioned, but conspicuously absent is another name, one of someone who also enthusiastically supported the expansion of Medicaid that has gotten us into this unholy mess. Of course, I refer to Barack Obama, who co-sponsored the legislation expanding Medicaid. Sit back and enjoy the irony of the following paragraph, from Governor Blagojevich’s press release touting the signing of the law:

The governor appeared at a Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago today along with Director of Public Aid Barry S. Maram to highlight new legislation sponsored by state Rep. Sandra Pihos, R-Glen Ellyn, and state Sen. Barack Obama, D-Chicago.  This legislation will enable 65,000 working parents and 20,000 children to now receive health insurance under the FamilyCare and KidCare programs.

Yes, that’s the same Children’s Memorial Hospital mentioned in today’s Tribune story.

That was 2003. For some real irony, flash forward to 2012. Illinois is under complete democrat control, but even they realize that the state’s Medicaid system is unsustainable, so they decided to make some very modest reforms to it. They decided that it might be a good idea to make sure that people receiving Medicaid benefits in Illinois actually live in the state of Illinois, as cruel and unreasonable as that sounds. It doesn’t sound unreasonable to you? Do you know who it does sound unreasonable to? You guessed it: Barack Obama.

From Forbes:

Illinois has one of the most expansive Medicaid programs in the country, with annual state and federal spending of $15 billion. That compares to a state budget of $33 billion. In the Land of Lincoln, you can qualify for Medicaid if your income is under 200 percent of thefederal poverty level—$44,700 for a family of four. Children qualify at 300 percent of FPL. One out of every five Illinoisans is on Medicaid, including one-third of all Illinois kids.

But in order to prove that you’re eligible for Medicaid in Illinois, all you have to do is provide a single pay stub. If that pay stub happens to be artificially low, suggesting a lower income than you actually have, it still counts as “proof” of Medicaid eligibility. As to proving Illinois residency? The nice people of Illinois merely ask that you write down an address. As a result, people earning more than the Medicaid threshold, and people who don’t even live in Illinois, are collecting Illinois Medicaid funds.

So in January, the State of Illinois, under a Democratic House, a Democratic Senate, and a Democratic Governor, passed a landmark Medicaid reform bill aimed at fixing this and other problems with the program. The new law required the state’s Medicaid recipients to provide a month’s worth of pay stubs, instead of just one, in order to provide evidence of residency and income. Not a big deal, you might think.

You’d be wrong. In July, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services informed Illinois that the seemingly innocuous reform violated federal law, because Obamacare doesn’t allow states to restrict Medicaid eligibility, and this reform, they decided, was an eligibility restriction.

So, Barack Obama, having helped plant the seeds of the unmitigated catastrophe that is Illinois’ Medicaid system, put federal legislation in place that not only is making it impossible to make even the most obviously necessary changes to the program, and now is trying to foist a similar financial and administrative nightmare on the entire country. If the Orwellian-named “Affordable Care Act” is not declared unconstitutional, he may be successful.

So many questions spring to mind; specifically, isn’t it amazing that none of the vigilant truth seekers in the national media have any interest in the situation that Barack Obama left behind in his home state? How can anyone think expanding Medicaid is good idea?  Are all the friends of Tony Rezko who deserve to be in jail actually behind bars?

For more on Illinois’ very illuminating experience on expanding government health care, please read this excellent piece from the Washington Examiner, “Medicaid expansions have already failed in Illinois.”

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