Chicago Tribune Examines Concerns Over Proposed Illinois All Kids Program
The Chicago Tribune on Sunday examined the concerns of some health care experts that Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's (D) proposed All Kids program, which would extend health insurance benefits to all uninsured children in the state, would not be financially sustainable over time (Parsons/Graham, Chicago Tribune, 10/23).
Under the All Kids plan, which must be passed by the state Legislature, parents of uninsured children would pay a monthly income-based premium that in most cases would cost less than private insurance. To fund the program, Blagojevich has proposed shifting 1.6 million beneficiaries enrolled in KidCare, FamilyCare and traditional Medicaid to a managed care system for an expected savings of $56 million during the first year. By the fifth year, Blagojevich said he anticipates enrollment of 204,000 children in All Kids at an annual cost of $96 million, in comparison with savings of $93 million from the shift to a managed care system in other state health care programs (California Healthline, 10/21).
According to the Tribune, "experts are unsure whether the sweeping expansion is financially sustainable in the long run." Blagojevich said his administration has developed a plan to pay for the expansion for at least five years, but "some question whether it would cover the costs indefinitely," the Tribune reports.
Robert Kaestner, a professor at the University of Illinois' Institute of Government and Public Affairs, said All Kids "doesn't in any way address the long-term sustainability of Medicaid. The fundamental problem is that Medicaid is taking up an increasingly large share of the state budget." In addition, Kaestner said savings from shifting beneficiaries to managed care "just pays for the expansion" and does nothing to reduce rising health care costs.
Steven Zuckerman, a research associate at Urban Institute, said the proposal's "incentive to actually control the use of medical services is not that strong," adding that an HMO-style managed care system that creates financial risk for doctors "would yield much more robust savings."
State Sen. Dale Righter (R) said he is concerned that if the program failed, some children in the state would be left without any type of health coverage. "The people who are in the system now, ... the children of the parents who are just getting by, they're the ones who get squeezed by this if it doesn't work," Righter said (Chicago Tribune, 10/23).
In related news, Blagojevich at a rally on Sunday said those who do not support the All Kids initiative are "motivated by the politics of the issue rather than the righteousness of the cause." Blagojevich said, "We have it in our power here in Illinois, in this time, in this place, at the dawn of the century, to do something no other state does, to guarantee to all of our kids access to health care and to reward the working people of our state who do what we want them to do -- work and try to build a better life for their families."
He characterized the plans as "a matter of common sense and simple human decency." The rally was attended by labor union members, community organizations, Democratic politicians and state employees. The General Assembly is expected to pass the bill when it reconvenes Tuesday for an abbreviated veto session (Pearson/Chase, Chicago Tribune, 10/24).