How can it happen that an annual program would cost 94 times what Illinoisans were told it would cost just three years ago — $188 million in its first year? With subsequent extensions it now costs nearly $1 billion per year and growing, money the state doesn’t have.
A better question: How could it not happen, given the abject disregard for cost of the program and Illinois’ routinely scandalous budget process?
And wait ’till you hear the excuse for the fiasco from Gov. J.B Pritzker’s administration.
Here’s what happened: In May 2020 Illinois, became the first state to provide Medicaid for undocumented seniors. The coverage was “tucked in near the end of the 465-page budget implementation bill that passed the Illinois General Assembly late Saturday night,” as reported by the State Journal-Register at the time. That’s how Illinois’ budget is routinely implemented. A budget plus an implementation bill, usually totaling at least a thousand pages, is put up for a vote with only hours of review.
The program would cost just $2 million per year, the bill’s sponsor said at the time. That’s Delia Ramirez, a Chicago Democrat in the Illinois House at the time. Pritzker signed the bill without any cost estimate by his office. That’s all we knew at the time.
But the cost of the program blew through the appropriation for it even within the first month of implementation and soared beyond all subsequent estimates and appropriations. That’s according to a closed-door presentation by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services to lawmakers last month that became public last week.
For the year from March 2022 through February 2023, cost of care for the 65 and over age group was nearly $188 million, which is 94 times what Ramirez claimed.
Since then, the state expanded the program twice, lowering the age limit to 55 in 2021 and 42 a year later. The cost estimates of those expansions also shatter estimates made along the way. Now, the expanded program is estimated to cost $990 million for the fiscal year that starts July 1. That’s an increase of $768 million over this year, which was the first full year under the expanded program.
No portion of that cost is reimbursable by the federal government.
Read the rest of the Wirepoints editorial.