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Political Rewind: Medicaid Reform Moves Forward, Action Taken in Smith Investigation

It's always good to be caught up on state politics. Here's an easy guide to what happened this week.

Editor's Note: This article was created by aggregating news articles from Illinois Statehouse News that were written by various Illinois Statehouse News reporters.

Illinois Week in Review: Medicaid Reform Moves Forward, Action Taken in Smith Investigation

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn signed off on cuts to the state’s Medicaid program this week, and the House investigation into state Rep. Derrick Smith continued to move forward.

Quinn signs off on Medicaid cuts, cigarette tax hike

Quinn on Thursday signed off on a cigarette tax hike and a series of changes to the state’s ailing Medicaid system to help Illinois save billions of dollars.

The reforms, which will boot thousands of low-income Illinoisans from the Medicaid rolls, include $1.6 billion in cuts, raising the state’s cigarette tax by $1 a pack to $1.98, stricter monitoring of Medicaid fraud and reducing payment rates to health-care providers.

The changes were designed to plug a $2.7 billion gap in the state’s Medicaid obligations, and they go into effect July 1. Earlier this week, the state began notifying thousands of Illinois families and individuals by mail that they may no longer qualify for health-care services.

Among the cuts is the elimination of Illinois Cares Rx, a state-only prescription subsidy program mainly for senior citizens. Dental services will be restricted, and some prescriptions will be limited to four per month.

Thousands of families will be cut from the rolls, too, as parents who earn more than 133 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, which equates to about $20,000 a year for a two-person household, will no longer receive Family Care health coverage.

“One of our most important missions in Springfield this year was to save Medicaid from the brink of collapse,” Quinn said in a statement Thursday.

Illinois skips required bid system for Medicaid contract

A $120 million cost-cutting measure in the recently passed Medicaid savings package skirts the normal bidding process, which was meant to find the best deal for taxpayers, according to a review by Illinois Statehouse News.

Quinn on Thursday signed bills that slashed $1.6 billion from the state’s Medicaid by, among other things, kicking ineligible health-care recipients out of the health-care program by ensuring everyone in the system meets eligibility, residency and other requirements.

But to do so, the legislation allows the state to hire an outside vendor for the eligibility checks and expedites that hiring by avoiding timelines and procedures outlined in state purchasing laws. Bypassing the standard procedure for accepting bids allows the state to award a contract without considering costs.

Normally, sealed bids on contracts are submitted to the state, and the contract is awarded to the lowest bidder that meets all requirements of the contract, a process that can take more than a year.

State Rep. Sara Feingenholtz, D-Chicago, helped negotiate the legislation. She said it came down to money, which taxpayers are losing every month the state goes without hiring a company to check eligibility. Government moves slowly, she said.

Mike Claffey, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, said the savings from the accelerated time frame for taxpayers will be significant, but the department did not yet have a number.

“It’s very labor intensive (purging the Medicaid rolls), and we think bringing the contractor on board would be cost effective, and going through the normal procurement process would be very time consuming,” Claffey said.

The final say on who gets the contract is up to the state’s chief procurement officer and DHFS, which have 90 days to find a suitable contractor.

Panel assembled to determine discipline for indicted lawmaker

A bipartisan panel of Illinois House lawmakers was assembled last week to determine what, if any, professional discipline should be handed down for indicted colleague Rep. Derrick Smith.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, appointed six lawmakers from his party—Barbara Flynn Currie, Edward Acevedo, Greg Harris, Camille Lilly and Kim du Buclet, all of Chicago, and Al Riley of Olympia Fields—to the Select Committee on Discipline.

House Republican Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, selected from his party Chapin Rose of Mahomet, Michael Connelly of Lisle, Renee Kosel of New Lenox, Sid Mathias of Buffalo Grove, Chris Nybo of Elmhurst and Joe Sosnowski, of Rockford.

State Reps. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, and Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, will head the committee.

According to House guidelines, Lang and Durkin will “try” the case, and the 12 lawmakers are “jurors” who will hear the case. The jurors can exonerate, reprimand, censure or expel Smith. Any recommendation for punishment must go before the House for a vote. A two-thirds majority is required for action to be taken.

The discipline committee must meet by July 6, according to the guidelines. A date had not been set as of last week.

Smith, a Chicago Democrat, was indicted in April on a federal bribery charge, after authorities allegedly recorded him accepting a $7,000 bribe. The case is pending in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois.

Illinois senator arrested, served with no-contact order

Lake County sheriff’s deputies Tuesday arrested state Sen. Suzi Schmidt for allegedly stalking and damaging the property of a neighbor who had a romantic relationship with Schmidt’s husband.

Schmidt, 60, a Lake Villa Republican, could not be reached for comment. Charges were filed against her for criminal damage to property and trespassing. She allegedly damaged the neighbor’s feed bag and was involved in some sort of altercation.

She was served with an emergency stalking, no-contact order involving the same neighbor. The no-contact order expires July 3, according to the Lake County Circuit Clerk’s Office.

It wasn’t Schmidt’s first run-in with the police involving the neighbor, who was not identified by the sheriff’s office. In 2010, Schmidt reportedly told a 911 dispatcher to ignore emergency calls from her husband, Robert Schmidt. Suzi Schmidt allegedly locked him out of the house after she claimed to catch him cheating on her with the neighbor.

“I’m having a little problem with my husband right now, but it’s fine. So if he calls you, Bob Schmidt, you can ignore him,” Suzi Schmidt said on the 2010 911 tape. “I just caught him with another one; that’s why I’m a little upset.”

Schmidt was not arrested after that incident, nor was she arrested after a subsequent domestic dispute in which she allegedly rammed her husband’s car with her own. Schmidt said she would not resign her office after the 911 tapes and news of her seemingly volatile marriage surfaced.

Schmidt announced earlier this year that she was not running for re-election.

— Jayette Bolinski

Rich Azure June 18, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Are there not enough state employees to audit Medicaid eligibility? Can't people be temporarily transferred from other departments? Why didn't the legislature set a budget amount for DHFS to spend instead of leaving a no-bid contract open-ended? Is this a one-up privatization or multi-year?
Carly EngageAmerica June 19, 2012 at 05:48 PM
An obvious reform is to block grant Medicaid funds to the states. This would grant them greater flexibility in tailoring Medicaid offerings to their state's specific needs, and would place the onus upon the states to limit spending. Block grants would encourage states to mimic successful private health care delivery reforms, and if those reforms reduce spending on acute care by just 4% per year, annual spending would fall by $9.5 billion (http://bit.ly/MhHbk8). Block grants would remove a significant incentive for states to inflate the price of health care by imposing health care taxes that increase federal matching funds.
Edward Andrysiak June 25, 2012 at 03:27 PM
DErric Smith...recorded taking a $7,000.00 bribe! RECORDED and federally charged and will stand trial. This while Madagan tries to decide what they should do with him relative to his political standing. How about suspending him righ now since he is pending trial. If found guilty fire him! But the politicians identify with him...want to treat him as "gently" as they would want to be treated when they get caught.
G.Ryan June 25, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Gangsters protecting their gangster family. Is this all they can come up with is to collaborate a committee made up of "them"? And they are going "try him" when he was already indicted by the Feds? Wonder if this trial will cost us taxpayers? Isn't this bribe composition made of the same as what the two former governors were put in the slammer for? We the People should go down to Springfield and remove them all. This is their gangster hide out haven. They are so far from us we can't seem to impact them. I wonder how much it costs us just in travel expenses for every one of these gangsters to travel down to MafiaMadigan headquarters.
Kevin Wagner June 26, 2012 at 01:22 AM
What a chump Smith is! This is Illinois and he sells out for a lousy $7K and has the nerve to call himself an Illinois politician.

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