After the November election confirmed the permanent status of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Illinois wasted no time getting the law’s reforms under way. In less than a month, three big changes have brought the state closer to ACA implementation:
1. On November 19, 2012, Cook County opened enrollment into “County Care,” the Medicaid expansion program for eligible county residents. Through a Section 1115 Waiver approved by the federal government, Cook County will pilot the ACA’s Medicaid expansion in 2013 – a full year before the rest of the state. The program will provide eligibility and access to care to approximately 250,000 low income adults in the County and will operate on a “medical home” model – which means the county’s patients would have a doctor, a nurse, a social worker, and a medical assistant assigned to manage their health care. Stay tuned for County Care progress reports.
2. Not to be out-done by Cook County, Illinois legislators filed a bill (HB 6253) earlier this week to expand Medicaid to all low income Illinoisans (earning up to 138% FPL or about $16,000/year). The Medicaid expansion is a cornerstone of the ACA’s success: it will provide comprehensive medical benefits to 600,000 individuals and is a fiscal boon to the state - bringing in an estimated $5.7 billion in Medicaid provider payments (through 2016) with no net state costs. It will also reduce hospital, Township and local government costs to cover the uninsured. To learn more, check out these fact sheets – one by Health & Disability Advocates and one by the Department of Health & Family Services.
3. The Illinois Department of Insurance was also busy this month, submitting on November 16, 2012, the state’s application to run a Partnership Health Insurance Exchange. In a partnership model, the state and federal government will share responsibilities for administering the online marketplace that will help over one million individuals and small businesses shop for quality health coverage. The state will need to decide soon how it will roll out its Navigator and in person consumer assistance programs. Once the blueprint becomes public, we will post it on Illinois Health Matters.
Finally, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention major policy activity on the federal level, too: right before Thanksgiving HHS published proposed rules governing the ACA's Essential Health Benefits provision, wellness programs and private insurance market reforms. Health Affairs has a great blog post summarizing these federal notices.
Illinois Health Matters will be following all of these federal and state developments closely. Check back for news and updates! Or feel free to ask us a question directly: email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Project Director, Illinois Health Matters