State pays out Medicaid money, still has billions in outstanding bills – Chicago Tribune
Doctors and hospitals that treat Medicaid managed care patients soon likely will get some long-awaited payments — but Illinois still has a long way to go when it comes to paying off all of its Medicaid bills.
The Illinois comptroller’s office announced Wednesday that this week it paid $740 million to Medicaid managed care organizations — insurers that administer benefits for about 2 million people in Illinois.
The state still, however, owes Medicaid managed care organizations about $3.5 billion.
The distribution followed state lawmakers’ passage of a budget earlier this month and a federal judge’s order last month that the state pay at least $586 million to the organizations in July. The judge said in the order that the backlog of bills was “crippling” doctors, hospitals and clinics that care for Medicaid managed care patients, reducing those patients’ access to care.
Jamey Dunn, a spokeswoman for the comptroller’s office, said in an email that without the state’s new budget, the $740 million payment would have been impossible. Even complying with the court order without a budget “could have potentially put other core priority payments at risk, such as money for local governments, state payroll or payments to pension funds,” she said.
One of the state’s larger Medicaid managed care organizations threatened earlier this summer, before the state passed a budget, to leave the program over the payments. That insurer, Aetna Better Health of Illinois said at the time that the state owed it $698 million. Aetna manages care for about 235,000 people on Medicaid in Illinois.
Aetna spokesman T.J. Crawford said in an email Wednesday that the insurer is “pleased that the state is complying with the federal order,” but he had no update on whether Aetna has decided to leave the program.
Illinois is in the midst of overhauling its Medicaid managed care program partly by narrowing the number of private insurers that participate. Eight of the current 12 participating insurers responded to a request for proposals to participate in the program moving forward. The state has not yet announced which insurers will be allowed to participate.