Illinois Seeking New Ways To Spend Medicaid Dollars

Jan 23, 2014

Credit state of Illinois

Illinois officials are planning an unusual request for flexibility in spending federal Medicaid dollars.

Governor Pat Quinn wants to use some of the money for things like employment assistance and housing. Officials say that approach will help people focus on their health -- and quit cycling through emergency rooms, psych wards and nursing homes.

Julie Hamos heads the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. She says they're ready for a new dynamic.

"We’re going to make a pitch to the federal government to help attack some of these social determinants of health," Hamos said.

The pitch will be for a planned five-year waiver from a long list of Medicaid rules. But some state lawmakers are leery about the financing. House Republican Tom Demmer of Dixon is one of them.

"There is a certain degree of risk in these projections over a five-year period, especially in the current health-care environment," Demmer said.

Officials say they’ll hold two more hearings on the Medicaid waiver before submitting the application in March.