Topinka Says State to Reap Nearly $100 Million from U.S. Government for Illinois Medicaid Bills

(Springfield, IL) — Illinois lawmakers on Wednesday approved a plan to delay a $365 million payment into Illinois’ rainy day fund, and instead use that money to pay some of the billions of dollars Illinois owes to Medicaid providers.

Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka said the state is racing to maximize a federal Medicaid match that expires at the end of the month. Illinois is getting 57 cents on the dollar for qualifying Medicaid bills that it pays this month. Starting in July, that rate falls back to the normal 50 cents on the dollar.

Maximizing the $365 million, Topinka said, should allow her to pay $1.85 billion in Medicaid bills by June 30. She estimates Illinois could receive an extra $90 million to $100 million from the federal government.

“The Medicaid match did not solve all of our problems, but is sure as heck helped,” said Topinka. “And come the 30th of June, we lose that help, and we’ll be out there on our own.”

The Medicaid match not only ensured Illinois a better return on health-care costs, but along with the federal stimulus, doctors, hospitals and long-term care centers were paid within 30 days. State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, D-Evanston, said that starting in July, those payments will take three months or longer to pay.

“When (the Medicaid match) goes away this month, so does the 30-day payment cycle,” said Schoenberg.

Schoenberg is quick to point out that hospitals asked for a longer wait between payments, rather than a payment cut. The 2012 state budget keeps Medicaid rates the same, but extends the payment cycle to more than 100 days.

State Rep. Patti Bellock, R-Hinsdale, said Illinois used a similar move two years ago to pay even more Medicaid bills, but paying down the backlog of bills is not solving Illinois’ problem.

“What worries me is the amount of money we’re still spending on Medicare,” said Bellock.

Bellock said until Illinois tightens Medicaid eligibility and moves people to managed care, the bills will keep growing.

Other bills have been piling up, said Topinka, who added that more than 120,000 unpaid bills are sitting in the Comptroller’s Office. Topinka said the other people who do business with the state, from providing food for prisons to social service providers, have been waiting for months for a check.

“The minute we push someone up to the front of the line, somebody else is going to the back of the line,” said Topinka. “There are only so many pieces of the pie I can distribute before I run out.”

Topinka said Illinois now owes $3.9 billion to people who do business with the state. She estimates that by the end of December, Illinois could owe between $6 billion and $7 billion.

Benjamin Yount, Illinois Statehouse News

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