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State Lawmakers OK Medicaid Reforms

Illinois House Floor

House floor at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Ill. (AP File Photo)

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) – Illinois lawmakers have approved reforms to the state’s Medicaid system that are intended to cut costs, pay bills sooner and reduce fraud.

The House voted 111-4 Thursday to approve the plan, a day after a unanimous vote in the Senate. It now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn for his consideration.

The effort lets lawmakers show taxpayers they’ve made cost-saving changes to Medicaid before they vote on a possible income tax hike.

The legislation requires half of all patients on Medicaid, a federal-state subsidized medical plan for the poor, be on managed care by 2015.

It would end the practice of letting bills to Medicaid providers go unpaid for months and work harder to make sure only those who are eligible receive Medicaid services. The plan would also make it easier to move people from expensive institutions into residential care and put measures in place to prevent ineligible people from entering the program.

Lawmakers said it would save $160 million a year, a small fraction of the program’s $7.6 billion annual cost.

The chief sponsor, Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), said Illinois has 2.8 million people in the program, and that the reforms would improve health and the program’s bottom line.

“We’re estimating that this bill in front of you will have at least $800 million in savings over five years,” Steans said.

Critics have said Medicaid reform is one of several reform plans designed to entice Republicans into voting for pension borrowing, or even a tax hike. But state Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine) doesn’t agree.

“I don’t really think there’s any connection between them, and I never have, to be perfectly honest,” Murphy said. “We need to do Medicaid reform because we need to do Medicaid reform.”