State lawmakers: new union deal could hurt Medicaid cost savings

Dec 17, 2013

This year, Illinois began a program to cull the state's Medicaid rolls.  So far, it has resulted in two out of every five recipients being dropped. But some lawmakers say a new agreement with a labor union jeopardizes further cost savings. 

 Spending on Medicaid -- the program of health care for the poor, elderly and disabled -- is among Illinois government's biggest expenses. In order to bring down costs, the administration of Gov. Pat Quinn agreed to hire Maximus, a company with experience verifying eligibility for Medicaid in other states. But the AFSCME union objected, saying the job should be done by government employees.

An arbitrator agreed, and the Quinn administration, warned by its lawyers that an appeal might not succeed, cut a deal with the union.

State spokesman Mike Claffey says the deal lets Illinois keep using Maximus' software and call center. "So the enhancements to our program that were offered by Maximus are retained." But Republican state Rep. Patti Bellock, of Hinsdale, says the administration should have pursued the appeal. "Why, when something is moving in the right direction, and why when it is going to help the most vulnerable population that we want to help, why would we take that away?" The administration's deal with AFSCME calls for hiring more than 500 additional state workers.