Kirk, Biggert seek to end Medicaid benefits for non-poor and out-of-state residents
By Abdon M. Pallasch Political Reporteremail@example.com July 18, 2011 3:08PM
What’s wrong with checking eligibility for Medicaid, Sen. Mark Kirk, Rep. Judy Biggert and state of Illinois officials are asking.
The federal government is refusing to allow a new process passed by bi-partisan majorities in Illinois that requires medical patients here to show that they live in Illinois and earn little enough to qualify for Medicaid.
Ending Medicaid payments to people who live out-of-state or who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid would free up money for the low-income families it is intended for, Kirk and Biggert said.
That argument won over leadership of the Republican and Democratic caucuses in Springfield. Republican Rep. Patti Bellock of Westmont and Democrat Barbara Flynn Currie of Chicago moved the bill, which Gov. Quinn signed into law.
Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich had dropped the requirement for people to provide two pay stubs to prove they live in Illinois and met the income requirements, Kirk said Monday. That proved an expensive gift from Illinois to out-of-state and higher-earning patients.
The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sent Illinois officials a letter June 24 — a week before the new rules were to take effect — saying the federal health care reform law prohibits states from dropping people from Medicaid eligibility.
They think Illinois’ rule-change violates that law. Illinois officials say it does not.
“You can’t change eligibility, so whatever high level Rod put us at we’re stuck with,” Kirk said. The government’s refusal to allow Illinois’ new rule “defies common sense. This won’t change eligibility — it just checks eligibility.”
Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services were not immediately available for comment.
Kirk and Biggert sent letters and are working on legislation in their respective chambers to defend Illinois’ rules, they said.
The state’s Healthcare and Family Services Department has been negotiating with the government, which has told them they should instead try to use existing electronic databases, such as Secretary of State records to verify eligibility.
Director Julie Hamos said that could solve part of the problem but would not be as good a solution as requiring the proof covered under the state’s law. She welcomed Kirk’s and Biggert’s efforts.
“I certainly don’t mind them appealing to a higher level than we can appeal it to,” Hamos said.
Hamos said the changes could save the state $1 million a year. Kirk put the number much higher.
The new rule does not ask people about citizenship, only about whether they reside in Illinois, Kirk said.