Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Health Illinois News:

Nearly three-quarters of Medicaid recipients remained on rolls after redeterminations

Nearly three-quarters of Medicaid recipients in Illinois remained on the rolls after the first redetermination cycle, state officials announced Monday.

Data released by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services found that 2.6 million Illinoisans kept coverage, while about 662,000 lost it.

Of those that lost coverage, about two-thirds were removed for procedural reasons, like submitting incomplete information. The remaining were disenrolled after being found ineligible for the program, including for making too much to qualify for it or finding other coverage.

Gov. JB Pritzker joined agency leaders in Chicago to celebrate the results of the redetermination process.

“Medicaid is an essential service for millions of Illinoisans, and the priority of the state was ensuring as few customers as possible lost coverage because of lack of awareness or procedural support — a goal I’m proud to say we have achieved,” he said.

HFS said about 87 percent of the total required redeterminations have been completed.

Illinois’ rate of Medicaid renewals is the ninth-highest in the nation, according to data from KFF. Maine and North Carolina lead the nation with an 87 percent renewal rate.

HFS Director Elizabeth Whitehorn praised the efforts of Pritzker and those in the agencies that oversaw the work, which includes the Department of Human Services. She noted that an educational campaign began over a year before redeterminations restarted to prepare residents for the process.

“There is no doubt in my mind that all of the work by our committed state workers and all of our many partners within and outside of state government has contributed to so many Illinoisans keeping their healthcare coverage over the past year,” she said.

Whitehorn said they will use the lessons learned during the process as redeterminations continue on an annual basis.

Along with an extension of ex parte renewals for individuals that can automatically be renewed without paperwork, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved several of the state’s requests, including accepting customer attestation for income and insurance status where electronic verification is not available, Whitehorn said.

Nurse leaders outline policy priorities

As the legislative session winds down in Springfield, nurse leaders representing hospitals, nursing homes, faculty and unions outlined a bevy of policy proposals they say could bring more nurses to the bedside in Illinois.

Brian Stahulak, chief nursing officer for Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, expressed support for making it easier for nurses licensed in other states to practice in Illinois. Illinois is one of a handful of states that haven’t joined the nurse licensure compact, which is opposed by unions.

“If we don’t create a model in which we make things easy and attractive for nurses to want to come to the state of Illinois and to practice nursing here, if we make it very difficult to get into the state, those are things that really limit our ability to move forward and really help address the challenges that healthcare in general is facing,” Stahulak said Monday during a virtual event hosted by Health News Illinois on the state of nursing in the Land of Lincoln.

Ron Nunziato, senior director of policy and regulatory affairs for the Health Care Council of Illinois, echoed his statements.

“We need to pass the nurse compact so that we can attract more (nurses) because every state around us already has it,” he said. “We are behind the eight ball with the nurse compact.”

Brenda Langford, chief nurse representative for the National Nurses Organizing Committee at Cook County Health, cautioned that different states have different education and licensing requirements.

“We would prefer that our patients are being monitored by nurses who have our same state licensing requirements,” she said.

Instead, she called for strengthening patient-to-nurse staffing ratios.

“A lot of our nurses have left because they’re tired of working short staffed,” she said.

Silver Cross Hospital Interim CEO Michael Mutterer wants to make it safer for nurses by passing legislation targeting violence against healthcare workers. He also supports the nurse licensure compact and easing barriers for international nurses that want to come to Illinois.

Monique Reed, Independence Foundation professor of nursing education at Rush University College of Nursing, said lawmakers should increase support for loan forgiveness for nurse faculty and fund surveys to hear from nurses and prospective nurses on what changes they want to see in the industry.

“None of the strategies in isolation are going to fix the problems that we have in healthcare and with nursing,” Reed said. “We need to be forward thinking and see how to use a combination of strategies to improve healthcare.”