Righter reviews Department of Healthcare and Family Services' proposed budget
Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) liked the idea of a 4 percent rate reduction and a $150 million decline in the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS) budget proposal for fiscal year 2019.
At a Senate Appropriations I Committee hearing Tuesday, DHFS Director Felicia Norwood starting off her budget presentation noting her department serves up to 3 million citizens, equaling one out of every four residents, before discussing money saved since 2017. Though Norwood noted that her department realizes Illinois has significant financial challenges, it did not stop her from requesting $22.5 billion for the department's future.
After asking Norwood to further define the new data analytics platform, titled the "Med Insight Program," she was seeking money to fund, Righter wanted to know more about the future of the department in the next two years, which according to Norwood will include further implementation of managed care organization (MCO) programs statewide, specifically in behavioral health.
Speaking of behavior health, Righter took advantage of the topic to introduce a new piece of legislation he drafted regarding the mental well-being of children.
“I think some of the things that have happened in the state and around the country in the last year or so have given us all pause to consider what are we doing when it comes to early intervention for children who might be struggling with issues,” Righter said before introducing SB2951, which would create a pilot program with regard to children with mental health issues.
“I want to put that on your radar screen for two reasons; one for the bill's sake because I want you to take a look at it, but second because I hope this bill prompts a more aggressive conversation in this building about what we can do, not for just those who are on Medicaid but also for those who have private insurance,” Righter said.
Getting back to numbers in the proposed budget, Righter wanted to know where exactly the $195 million in cost avoidance funds that Norwood mentioned in proposal are coming from.
Norwood said a big part of the money is from long-term care provisions that the Inspector General’s Office discovered in untapped assets available to Medicaid patients. She added that other funds were found in provider payment audits and settlements.
Righter told Norwood that he has found that usually when lawmakers are in a pinch on Medicaid funding, rates are usually cut because that is relatively easy to do in a political setting.
“One of the things I don’t think we talk enough about, in this committee or the General Assembly as a whole, isn’t just how much money we are spending, but how we spend it,” Righter said. “But surely somewhere in that system we can find that money without cutting rates that are already by industry consensus insufficient.”