CHICAGO – State Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, and members of a House budget committee shined a light on the human face of the technical issues plaguing a Rauner administration IT upgrade that had incorrectly blocked tens of thousands from receiving services during late 2017 at a hearing Monday.
“Governor Rauner’s mismanagement of state contracts has led to misery for medically fragile children, nursing home residents and people with disabilities,” said Harris. “It’s another example of how the governor is focused on handing out contracts to private consultants and ignoring the plight of those at the bottom of the economic ladder.”
During the hearing, advocates from local social service agencies and frontline Department of Human Service workers testified as to how the new Integrated Eligibility System (IES) had failed residents.
“As a single parent of an adult with disabilities whose livelihood depends on Medicaid, I feel that the systemic Medicaid issues occurring in Illinois threaten the life I have worked so hard to achieve these last forty-one years for my daughter and myself,” said Shirley Perez, whose serves as Program Director of the Ligas Family Advocate Program and Executive Director of the Family Support Network of Illinois, and whose adult daughter was almost recently cut off from her Medicaid coverage. “When her redetermination notice failed, my heart just sank, even with years of experience as a parent and as a professional in the disability field who talks to other families about their issues daily. Please know that the impact of this problem is far greater than it might seem because it is a threat to our very existence.”
In 2017, the Illinois Department of Human Services began rolling out the second phase of the IES to process enrollment for several different services. However, in late 2017, more than 40,000 households lost their food stamp benefits. The IES change also created a state backlog in processing identification numbers for Medicaid patients, blocking some patients from receiving treatment. In both cases, officials had to scramble as thousands went without critical health and food benefits that often serve as the difference between life and death.
In addition to having technical issues, IES has gone way beyond its initial price tag, leading to a $300 million project whose extensions and amendments will end up costing more than the project’s original budget.
“The countless stories from families across Illinois on the widespread failures of the state’s new Medicaid computer system would be disastrous on their own,” Harris continued. “Yet the fact that the cost overruns on this failed system total more than $150 million makes it doubly outrageous. Taxpayers should not be coughing up hundreds of millions of tax dollars to actually make things worse.”