Medicaid overhaul deal worth a record $5.26B

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — Mere days after the state of Illinois paid down roughly forty percent of it’s backlog of overdue bills, the Rauner administration finalized the largest vendor contract in state history. 

The six-year, $5.26 billion deal is split between seven healthcare companies who met the state’s criteria for a massive Medicaid overhaul. BlueCross BlueShield ($1.03B), County Care ($1.05B), Harmony Health Plan of Illinois ($685M), Illini Care Health Plan ($915M), Meridian Health Plan ($960M), Molina Healthcare of Illinois ($440M) and Next Level Health Partners ($180M) enlisted as Managed Care Organizations and, as agreed to under the terms of the deal, will combine to provide at least five coverage options for Medicaid patients in all 102 Illinois counties. 

Aetna Better Health and Humana are the two providers who lost out on their bids.

The Department of Healthcare and Family Services oversaw the controversial bidding process unfettered by the public scrutiny that would accompany most other large state contracts. Years ago, the General Assembly granted the Office of the Governor discretion to shop for ‘Purchase of Care’ contracts without all of the red tape and regulation that often besets otherwise eager state vendors. 

Governor Rauner vetoed a bill sponsored by Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) that would have effectively stripped the ‘Purchase of Care’ privileges from the Executive Branch and subjected the deal to more stringent oversight.

“Since I introduced legislation to require more transparency and oversight into the largest procurement in Illinois history, I have known there would be problems,” Harris said in a phone interview. 

Rauner called the process “competitive and transparent” in his October veto message which said, “Enactment of this legislation would needlessly cost taxpayers millions of dollars.”

On Wednesday, as required by a part of the new procurement code, the Rauner administration quietly published the first details of a new one-year consulting contract with McKinsey and Company worth up to $12.5 million. The sizable bid was awarded without any competition. HFS says the ‘consent decree compliance’ contract is exempt from competitive bidding rules. 

HFS spokesman John Hoffman said in a statement, “By Federal consent decree, the Department must design and implement significant changes to its delivery of medical services, including under the rebooted managed care program that will cover 80 percent of the state’s Medicaid beneficiaries.” 

Currently, 65 percent of Illinois’ 3.2 million Medicaid patients are enrolled in managed care programs. HFS Director Felicia Norwood testified at a House Human Services Committee in May that the agency expects enrollment efforts will boost involvement up to 80 percent. 

“In retaining special expertise to achieve this goal,” Hoffman’s statement continued, “HFS has followed state procurement code. By helping to ensure that the Department is in compliance with the law, this contract is intended to ultimately prevent costly future litigation.”

A source close to the governor’s inner circle says McKinsey has been nurturing this deal from the beginning, often serving as a mediator between potential providers and the governor’s office. The source, who asked not to be named in this report, says a partner at McKinsey maintains a direct line of communication with Deputy Governor Trey Childress. Calls placed to McKinsey were not immediately returned. Childress, who operates largely behind the scenes and coordinates business with state agency supervisors, is one of a select few top advisors who not only survived the governor’s summer staffing purge of 2017, but also saw his responsibility and influence swell to new heights. 

This first glimpse at the cost and scope of the McKinsey contract may provide insight into how this deal was crafted from the start. Any previous contract work with the state was not publicly disclosed as it was technically exempt from publishing requirements under the old procurement code. New orders filed under the Freedom of Information Act may soon yield further details about McKinsey’s role in this process.

“Now we’re seeing disclosure of contracts we didn’t know about. I wonder who was involved in designing the criteria and deciding the selection and exclusion of winners and losers,” Representative Harris wondered. “I think we have an interest in knowing these things.” 

Harris filed two new health insurance bills on Thursday, one of which would prevent Central Management Services from slashing Medicaid services made available under the Affordable Care Act without the consent of the General Assembly. 

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