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The [Monday] Papers

"Savings from cuts to the Illinois Medicaid program have fallen short by $464 million, about 30 percent of the expected $1.6 billion in projected savings that Gov. Pat Quinn pushed for last year," AP reported last week.

"In the first public report on how cuts to the health care safety-net program are being carried out, Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Director Julie Hamos detailed the actual savings of cost-cutting measures so far. Hamos reported to the House Human Services Appropriation Committee on Thursday in Springfield."

Boldface mine.

"Some cuts have gone as planned, such as dropping Medicaid coverage for thousands of working parents and eliminating coverage of dental care and visits to chiropractors for adults.

"We were able to achieve a billion dollars in health savings and that's never been done in Medicaid history," Hamos told The Associated Press in a telephone interview after giving the report.

Perhaps because Democrats have traditionally blocked such cuts, instead of enacting them.

"But a projected savings of $350 million from making sure only people who are eligible receive Medicaid was too optimistic, Hamos said."

Which is what Democrats have traditionally argued when Republicans have claimed massive Medicaid fraud.

"An outside vendor started the work in January. Reston, Va.-based Maximus Inc. was hired to improve the system, eliminate a backlog and make recommendations to state caseworkers.

"Hamos said that it takes time to implement a large effort to check the eligibility of 2.7 million Medicaid recipients. Her new estimate for savings from the eligibility crackdown is $150 million for this year.

"This company had to hire and train 500 people. They had to rent office space," Hamos said. "The company (Maximus) believes (this process) should take seven months. We made them do it in 90 days, and by Jan. 2, they were up and running."

Maybe they could have hired some people on Medicaid.

"Another obstacle to achieving all the projected cuts: The federal government denied permission to carry out some planned cuts that would have changed the way people are deemed to be eligible for nursing home care, preventing savings of several million dollars."

Maybe because simply changing eligibility rules doesn't change a person's need for nursing home care.

"The Illinois Hospital Association won changes to rules that will mean $30 million in cost savings won't be achieved, Hamos said. The state had planned to stop paying for entire hospital stays when certain mistakes happen - such as a surgical sponge left inside a patient. But that plan 'was basically gutted,' Hamos said, after the hospital association made its case to the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules.

I suppose the state figured the hospitals should pay for their own mistakes, but how can they afford to when they spend so much money bending legislators to their will?

"The Medicaid cuts limit patients to four prescription drugs per month without prior approval. Rep. Greg Harris, a Chicago Democrat, said he'd like to see future reports on how that's going for people with severe mental illnesses. If most are gaining authorization for their drugs because they clearly need them, Harris said, it may be wiser to drop the red tape.

"Are we just creating bureaucracy?" he asked. "I think we need to be monitoring for unintended consequences that push the costs out someplace else."

But that's the name of the game. Costs aren't being cut, they're being shifted. To the shafted.

Private Courts
"A Northwestern University student filed a lawsuit against the school in 2008, alleging top administrators failed to discipline a student who raped her," the Tribune reports.

But what happened in the case is a secret.

The student's complaint, filed under a pseudonym to protect her identity, was sealed shortly after it was filed in Cook County Circuit Court. Northwestern University says the student had the case sealed. The student's lawyer says that's not true.

The court order sealing the file that could clear that up? That's a secret too.

The Northwestern University legal dispute is one of 163 cases in the Chancery Division that judges have hidden from the public, according to a Tribune analysis of cases sealed since January 2000. Chancery judges handle various legal matters, including contract disputes, mortgage foreclosures and big-money class-action lawsuits.

State law allows some legal battles to be filed under seal, such as whistle-blower lawsuits. But the Tribune found chancery judges also have sealed cases for a fellow judge, the Wrigley family and a former Chicago Bulls basketball player.

This isn't a new story, but that doesn't mean it's not an important story - one that should be revisited every year.

Numero UNO
"Illinois House Speaker and state Democratic Party leader Michael Madigan - long a friend to Chicago's United Neighborhood Organization - had a campaign fund-raiser last Oct. 30 hosted by the influential group's chief executive, Juan Rangel, and its lobbyist, attorney Victor Reyes," the Sun-Times reports.

The turnout was good. And so was the money, records show, with UNO contractors writing checks for more than $24,000 to campaign funds controlled by Madigan, the Chicago Democrat whose district has grown increasingly Hispanic in recent years.

Madigan had given a big boost to the group's aspirations to be a major operator of charter schools in the city when he helped it get a $98 million state school-construction grant in 2009, without any requirement for competitive bidding on the work, as government agencies typically must do. The state money helped fuel UNO 's rapid growth as the operator of publicly funded schools that offer an alternative to Chicago's public schools in heavily Latino neighborhoods.

Millions of dollars from the state grant ended up going to family members of UNO 's political allies and of a top executive of the group, Miguel d'Escoto, the Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier this month. The stories prompted d'Escoto to resign his $200,000-a-year UNO post and triggering a state review.

After the Madigan benefit was held, a bill was introduced in Springfield on Jan. 2 that would have provided another $35.2 million in state money UNO was seeking to build more charter schools. The author of the bill, state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), says she isn't sure who wrote the provision benefiting UNO into her broader bill.

My money's on Ida Know.

At the October fund-raiser for Michael Madigan, the hosts also included the Roosevelt Group lobbying group - led by Reyes and Noonan - and the Reyes Kurson law firm.

UNO recently hired Reyes' law firm to lobby for a zoning change from City Hall for a new high school on the Southwest Side, city records show. Construction, expected to cost $31 million, is being funded entirely by state taxpayers. Reyes Kurson will be paid an estimated $25,000 in state funds for their work on the project.

Boldface mine.


Meet the Chicago alderman who serves as Reyes Kurson's counsel.

Budget Showdown Update
In today's QT.

Illinois Sequestered!
A Beachwood exclusive.

The Weekend In Chicago Rock

Remembering Magic Slim
Keeper of the Flame.

Picasso & Chicago
Royko and The Boss.

Will appear on Tuesday.


The Beachwood Tip Line: Sequestral.


Posted on February 25, 2013

MUSIC - Britney's IUD.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - Climate Deniers' 4 Top Scare Tactics.
SPORTS - The McEnroes In Antarctica.

BOOKS - Foxconned.


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