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Newsroom :: Waste Watch  - Waste Watch: Medicaid Cards

Waste Watch: Medicaid Cards

More than two million Illinois residents receive care under Medicaid. That's a huge expense for the state's already poor fiscal picture. But as we found out, at least one thing the state could be doing that would save hundreds of thousands of dollars. It comes down to how the state issues Medicaid cards. The state continues to send out monthly paper cards. In 2011, they were supposed to start issuing durable cards to help cut costs. Today, that goal, isn't even close.

Mark Reiss says he receives Medicaid benefits. Every month, he gets this paper card. But he doesn't understand, why the state won't send him and others on Medicaid a durable card. One that will last a long time, therefore, avoiding printing and mailing costs.

"It's a whole bunch of money down the drain," Reiss said. "You can't get it back."

In fact, in 2010, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services announced they were going to implement cost saving measures to the Medicaid system. One of them was replacing monthly cards with a durable card. They even said it would reduce wasteful printing and postage costs. They said new legislation required implementation by July of 2011. The problem? It hasn't happened. DHFS says the transition to annual mailing will occur in 2013.

"It does make me angry sometimes, but I don't lose sleep over it," Reiss said.

According to DHFS, the state spends about $5.5 million dollars a year on printing and mailing monthly cards. Going to the more durable cards will help save $400,000. But those savings were supposed to start in 2011, not 2013. For State Representative, Bill Mitchell, he thinks savings would be more.

"What we found in the General Assembly, and that's why we want to go to a more durable or permanent card, is some people abuse it," Mitchell (R-Forsyth) said. "That means they get a paper card and they give it to their neighbor. Your neighbor would then use it to do to the doctor."

Regarding the delay in the implemention of durable Medicaid cards, DHFS says:

"We continue to work to implement this change as quickly as possible as we work through the procurement process and make certain we obtain the best possible deal for taxpayers."

"Governor Quinn's administration is not noted for efficiency," Mitchell said.

You may recall this past spring session when lawmakers cut Medicaid by $1.7 billion to reign in costs, thousands saw their health care cut back or even eliminated. Under the Affordable Care Act, the state could see hundreds of thousands of new residents enroll in Medicaid coverage. Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka says that would cost the state more than $2 billion over the next six years. Republican lawmakers want the state to opt out of this provision to avoid the added cost.

Waste Watch: Medicaid Cards

Sunday, August 4 2013, 11:09 AM CDT

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