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Bennett Calls For Override To Save Bill Fighting Medicaid Backlog

Illinois Senate Democrats

State Senator Scott Bennett says he hopes lawmakers override the governor’s amendatory veto of a bill he co-sponsored to speed up the processing of Medicaid applications for long term care in Illinois.

Many Illinois nursing homes endure long waits for the state to process Medicaid applications, while they shoulder expenses for residents who have used up their own money. The delays in applications were a factor in the Champaign County Board’s decision to approve the sale of the Champaign County Nursing Home earlier this year.

Bennett, a Champaign Democrat, says the problem is serious for private nursing homes as well. He was one of many co-sponsors from both parties who backed a bill (HB 4771)that would start benefits immediately on a provisional basis, for long-term care recipients deemed likely to qualify for Medicaid.

“You know, if you meet these certain parameters, we’re going to presume you’re eligible”, said Bennett. “And then there’s going to be a step-by-step checklist of documents required. Meaning that once you turn this thing in, we’ve crossed that off, we’ve gone to the next thing. And we can determine if that person’s eligible for Medicaid or not.”

The bill passed both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly unanimously last spring. But on August 15, Governor Rauner used his amendatory veto powers to place limits on the measure.

“While I empathize with the desire to speed payments for clients who qualify for Medicaid long term care services, this bill as written would expose the state to unnecessary expenses”, Rauner wrote in his veto statement.

Rauner said those expenses include paying benefits to presumptive recipients who may turn out not to qualify for Medicaid, and paying benefits before matching funds from the federal government are available. The governor also argued that he had already signed two other bills ( (SB 2585 and SB 2913), which would cut red tape around the Medicaid application process. Rauner stated that those measures plus other recent improvements would be enough to eliminate the application backlog.

According to Gov. Rauner, his amendatory veto would clarify that the provisional Medicaid eligibility would only apply to long term care cases, and only until the state makes a final ruling on eligibility. The law would expire once the state made “significant progress” in eliminating the application backlog. And there would be a “claw back” provision so the state could recover payments made to those determined to be ineligible.

But Senator Bennett is not accepting any of the governor’s arguments. He accused Rauner of playing a “shell game” with money that should going to pay for long term care for people waiting on their Medicaid applications.

“Frankly, it appears to me that the governor’s trying not to pay these Medicaid bills, so we can use other money to pay other things”, said Bennett. “And all you’re basically doing is robbing Peter to pay Paul, and making the state look like it’s in a better footing under the governor’s watch than it is.”

Bennett says he hopes the bill’s lead sponsors (Chicago Democrat John Mulroe in the state Senate, and Macomb Republican Norine Hammond in the House) will work to override the governor’s amendatory veto during the fall veto session.