You'll never guess where the latest Medicaid relief is coming from

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

If you are a long-term care provider relying on Medicaid dollars to make ends meet, Illinois is probably one of the last places where you'd want to be doing business.

The Land of Lincoln has a notorious reputation as a payment laggard. Operators have historically waited for three to six months — often even longer — to get reimbursed. But if it's possible, the problem has become even worse. These days, it's not too hard to find an operator who's waiting a year or more on unpaid Medicaid claims.

A large part of the problem can be tied to the state's precarious fiscal situation. According to a state report released in March, Illinois' net cumulative deficit for “governmental activities” (including payment obligations to nursing homes) rose by $1.2 billion in the fiscal year that ended last June 30. It now tops $47 billion.

So it's hardly a surprise that Illinois hasn't exactly been loading up on caseworkers who might speed along the process of sorting out Medicaid-eligible residents, much less ensuring they have sufficiently spent down their assets.

Nor does it help that this is happening during the implementation of Obamacare, which has added more than 300,000 people to the state's Medicaid rolls.

But in a place where governors seem to be more likely to be serving time than constituents, something unexpected and helpful recently happened: Gov. Pat Quinn (D) signed legislation that might actually give operators some long-overdue Medicaid-payment relief.

For among other things, Senate Bill 741 will free up as much as $50 million in loans for facilities that are being crushed by Medicaid payment delays.

I realize that holding up Illinois as an example of how to address a Medicaid payment backlog is sort of like asking House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to speak about the harmful effects of tanning salons. Yet there it is. A good law that helps providers — and that other states might want to emulate.

Who knows: This just might be the best thing Illinois has had to offer since Michael Jordan played for the Chicago Bulls.

John O'Connor is McKnight's Editorial Director.

Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.