For over a year, we've been touting the success of Illinois' two public Medicaid managed care programs. Implemented four years ago, Illinois Health Connect (which links up 1.7 million Medicaid recipients with primary care doctors) and Your Healthcare Plus (which helps 220,000 Illinoisans more effectively manage chronic diseases) have been remarkably successful at holding down costs and improving care. Currently, Illinois has the 10th-lowest average cost-per-beneficiary of any state in the nation. And that's likely to improve. Crain's reported yesterday that, according to Medicaid director Theresa Eagleson, the state saved $320 million thanks to the two programs in fiscal year 2009, up from about $180 million the year before.
That's a substantial boost to the state's coffers and a real accomplishment on the part of lawmakers. Moreover, it should make the media and voters wary whenever a Republican complains that Illinois could dramatically cut health care costs if it used more private managed care. As Eagleson tells Crain's (and other health care experts have told us), forcing the majority of patients into HMO-style plans won't produce greater savings than Illinois Health Connect is already achieving.