Thursday, February 27, 2014

New Medicaid enrollments coming faster than expected

By Jamey Dunn

Illinoisans have signed up for Obamacare more quickly than the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services expected, Director Julie Hamos says.

Hamos told a House budgeting committee today that her agency had predicted about 509,000 people would enroll in Medicaid under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. She said today that about 430,000 of them could be enrolled by the end of the calendar year. “We are actually seeing stronger numbers, larger numbers, earlier than we ever really expected.” Based on the applications that the department has on hand, Hamos said an estimated 315,000 Illinoisans who are newly eligible for Medicaid have applied so far. “We thought that we were going to be at 200,000 this year.”

Under Obamacare, the federal government will pay for 100 percent of the cost of patients who are eligible under the expansion of the law for the first three years. But HFS has predicted that some residents who are already eligible for Medicaid but have not applied will apply now because of the outreach efforts associated with the launch of the Affordable Care Act. The state would only get the standard 50-50 federal match for those enrollees. Illinois has received 82,000 applications from the federal online insurance marketplace and is sifting through them. Hamos said that until that job is done, there is no way to know how many of the applicants would fall under the lower funding match level.

Hamos also told the committee that the savings targets established under the 2012 Medicaid reforms (also known as the SMART Act) will not be reached. The original savings estimate was $1.6 billion, but Hamos said today it has been revised to $1.1 billion, which she called “still very significant for a program like this.” Hamos said several factors led to the savings being less than expected, including procurement timelines, pending litigation and delays in federal approval of same changes. The federal government also denied some of the proposals in the law. Hamos said the savings estimates tied to the state’s efforts to purge Medicaid of the ineligible enrollees was too high.

While Republicans have accused Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration of not being aggressive enough in implementing the Medicaid changes geared toward cutting costs, some said today they were glad to hear that the savings are still significant. “To be able to look at the savings from the SMART Act, [it] shows us that we did do something in government,” said Hinsdale Republican Rep. Patricia Bellock.

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