Tag Archives: Illinois

Illinois overdrew hundreds of millions of federal Medicaid dollars, audit says


thonline.com:  Illinois used faulty methods for withdrawing federal Medicaid money, resulting in “a perpetual ‘treadmill effect’” of regular overdraws of dollars that the state later had trouble repaying, federal auditors said in a report released Monday.

The state’s withdrawals exceeded its actual Medicaid spending by an average of $60 million per quarter during the three years reviewed, according to the report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General.

The federal government may have lost as much as $792,000 in interest during fiscal 2010 through 2012 because the state repaid the money two to six months later, the report said.

Meanwhile, Illinois used the money for other purposes. The state deposited the overdrawn Medicaid money directly into the state’s general revenue fund, the same fund used for transportation, education and pensions, the report said. The money was used to pay non-Medicaid expenditures because it was mixed in with other money in the fund.

Federal rules require states to limit the amount of Medicaid transfers to what the states really need and to minimize the time states hold onto the money.

A watchdog group called the report’s finding an example of Illinois’ irregular budget practices that have led to a multibillion-dollar pile of overdue bills.

“The audit clearly points out that the state has used federal Medicaid dollars to mask other financial challenges and avoid cutting spending or increasing revenue” to balance the budget, said Laurence Msall of the Civic Federation, a Chicago-based policy analysis organization.

But the report concluded that all the money obtained by Illinois was legitimately supported by state spending on the Medicaid program. That’s important, said Ralph Martire of the bipartisan Chicago-based Center for Tax and Budget Accountability.

“It’s not like the state is trying to defraud the federal government,” Martire said, although he said Illinois may have “some sloppy internal systems” it needs to fix.

Illinois “justified every dime that it claimed,” said Michael Casey, finance administer for the state’s Medicaid program at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. He called the repayment problems cited by the audit “a matter of timing.” (Try using that excuse with the IRS.)

Casey said that the state’s outdated, 30-year-old computer system can’t do daily calculations of federal reimbursement rates for a half-dozen different programs, making it necessary to estimate how much money to draw. The system will be replaced by the end of 2017, he said.

Medicaid is a federal and state program that pays medical expenses of the poor and disabled. In Illinois, the state and federal governments each pay for about half the program’s expenses. The Illinois Medicaid program now covers 3 million people with a budget of about $18 billion.

The federal review was part of a series related to states’ withdrawals of federal Medicaid money.

Julie Hamos

Julie Hamos

It’s the latest difficulty for Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Director Julie Hamos, who earlier this year was hit with an Illinois audit finding the program overpaid $12.3 million for medical care for 2,850 people who were dead. (In December 2012, Julie was presented the “Excellence in Public Service Award” by Motorola Solutions Foundation, in partnership with the Civic Federation. In January 2013, Julie was named by the Chicago Tribune Business Section as one of the “People to Watch” in 2013.)

In a letter responding to the new federal audit, Hamos said her department is addressing the problem “to reduce the amounts of overdraws and underdraws of federal Medicaid funds.” Hamos said the expansion of managed care in Illinois’ Medicaid program “should allow for more consistent payment cycles and better estimates of the federal share of payments.”

Illinois has lagged behind other states in adopting managed care, which pays insurers and health networks fixed per-patient fees instead of paying separately for every appointment, surgery and test. A 2011 state law required expanding managed care to half the state’s Medicaid patients by 2015.


Illinois towns reject call to pass assault weapons bans


Fox News: (SPRINGFIELD, Ill.) –  As Illinois prepares  to become the last state in the country to allow the concealed carry of  firearms, few of its communities appear concerned that the window allowing them to ban assault-style weapons will rapidly begin closing next week.

Despite encouragement from Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon — and on the verge of  almost-certain enactment next week of a law allowing residents to carry  concealed weapons — only four communities have adopted semi-automatic gun restrictions out of more than two dozen taking them up.

According to interviews and information from gun-rights groups such as the  Illinois State Rifle Association, 14 communities have rejected or decided not to  act on proposed bans. Ten have yet to vote or have delayed consideration.

All of them are in the Chicago metropolitan area. Those adopting bans —  Highland Park, North Chicago, Melrose Park, and Skokie — join eight other cities, also near Chicago, that already regulate possession or sale and transfer of illegal weapons, according to research compiled by the Illinois House  Democrats’ staff.

The odd linkage of packing handguns in public to allow city-based bans on  semi-automatic weapons comes from a delicately negotiated settlement that will make Illinois the last of 50 states to allow the carrying of concealed  weapons.

Lawmakers approved concealed carry in May after a federal appeals court ruled it is unconstitutional for the state to prohibit it.

Gun-rights supporters pushed through the House a concealed carry initiative  which invalidated all local ordinances regulating guns. Chicago Democrats in the Senate demanded that Chicago be allowed to keep its ban on assault-style rifles, leading to the compromise allowing those places without such bans 10 days to enact them.

“I just don’t see the place for it. I’m not against people having guns, not  at all,” said Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico, whose village board unanimously  voted for a ban in late June. “The thing I can’t get my arms around, I know when the Constitution was passed, I don’t think they could envision these types of guns.”

Along with the dozen communities banning them, Deerfield officials voted not  to ban the weapons but adopted storage regulations. Outside the Chicago area, only a couple communities requested information from Simon when she urged cities in early June to consider bans. None followed up.

Lawmakers adopted the concealed carry legislation by margins large enough to invalidate Gov. Pat Quinn’s amendatory veto of the bill on Tuesday. Quinn called the initiative “flawed” and along with tougher restrictions, suggested there be no time limit on enacting local assault-weapons bans.

The Highland Park City Council agreed with Quinn’s contention that larger  cities with “home rule” powers should have a say on semi-automatic weapons and  high-capacity ammunition feeders. “It became a question of, this is a home-rule right, and we think we ought to retain it,” Highland Park City Manager Dave Knapp said.

Skokie officials decided to enact an ordinance for review later. “We can  amend it or repeal it once the legal dust settles,” corporation counsel Michael  Lorge said.


In Chicago, with a long history of tough gun restrictions, Mayor Rahm Emanuel last month proposed a tougher city assault-weapons ban. It would include cover weapons not included in the current ordinance and would “reflect advances” in  gun technology, according to a news release.

But not every community is toeing the anti-gun line. The Illinois State Rifle Association has worked against what association officer Mike Weisman said is needless regulation because semi-automatic rifles are not often used in murders.  FBI statistics indicate that of 377 Illinois firearms-related murders in 2011,  only 13 were not committed with a handgun. Five were by shotgun, one by rifle —  although the type is not specified — and seven by an unreported type of  gun.

“They don’t need local control over these firearms,” Weisman said. “There are no problems, so they’re creating a tough, painful solution to a non-existent  problem.”

More than a dozen cities have heard the outcry from gun owners. “I never had so many emails, so many phone calls from people who didn’t want us even playing with this issue,” said Dean Argiris, the village president of  Wheeling, where he and the entire board of trustees voted against an ordinance Monday night.

The Northbrook Village Board took a pass last month. “We believe that it belongs at the federal or state level,” village president  Sandra Frum said.

Simon’s office said her letter to more than 200 home-rule communities  generated requests for information and sample ordinances from six cities, none of which have appeared to have taken up the issue. Mayor Joel Fritzler, Simon’s  hometown of Carbondale, is one official who requested information but chose not to pursue it after a tepid response from city council members. “To have a patchwork system in Illinois just doesn’t make sense,” Fritzler  said.

I’m glad some communities are coming to their senses in Illinois. The gang bangers won’t be following the gun rules, of course. Hopefully citizens in Illinois will be able to protect themselves.



Illinois gets their “hope and change”


More than 1,700 Illinois workers warned in May of layoffs

Chicago Tribune: More than 1,700 Illinois workers received notice in May that they could be laid off in the coming weeks, according to filings with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Caterpillar warned it could add 299 workers to a round of layoffs planned to begin July 3 at its heavy mining equipment plant in Decatur. The company said in April it would lay off more than 460 supplemental employees there because of falling equipment sales. The combined job cuts represent nearly 20 percent of the plant’s workers.

Pennsylvania-based TransCore LP gave notice to 196 workers they could lose their jobs as early as June 30. The company operates the Illinois Tollway Authority’s customer-service center in Lisle, warning drivers of violations and taking calls from I-PASS customers.

All Tri-R, a commercial and institutional builder in Decatur, warned 173 workers they could lose their jobs because of a lost contract. On its Web site the company said it had about 300 workers.

Other workers reporting possible layoffs of more than 100 workers included book publisher D. B. Hess in Woodstock, Berkeley Contract Packaging private mail center in Edwardsville, paint manufacturer Testor Corp. in Rockford, Illinois Central School bus in South Beloit as well as school district caterer Chartwells Dining Service in Waukegan. G&D Integrated Distribution in East Peoria said it may add 168 workers to an earlier WARN notice.

Abbott Laboratories spin-off AbbVie Inc. in North Chicago said it may lay off up to 96 workers between June 21 and the end of the year. The Tribune reported last month AbbView it was cutting pharmaceutical sales representatives who sell heart drugs that have lost patent protection.

Sources said the AbbVie cuts would be nationwide and include “several hundred” employees and contracted salespeople, as well as managers.

Employers with more than 100 employees are required to give 60 days notice of possible layoffs under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining (WARN) Act when third of the workforce or more than 500 workers could be affected.



Elections have consequences.


Illinois might finally see crime rates go down

conceal carry

Illinois lawmakers approve concealed carry gun bill

Chicago Tribune: State lawmakers today approved compromise legislation to set up rules on who can carry concealed guns and where they can be carried.

Illinois is the last state in the nation not to have some form of concealed carry on the books, but a federal appeals court overturned the state’s long standing ban in December and gave lawmakers until June 9 to come up with regulations to allow it.

“Don’t let your constituents go off the cliff, this is a historic day for law abiding gun owners in this state,” said sponsoring Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg.

Under the proposal, concealed weapons would be banned from numerous sites, such as CTA and Metra buses and trains, casinos, government buildings and stadiums. But lawmakers said the bill would allow people to carry concealed weapons in restaurants where alcohol is served but more than half of the sales are for food.

A five-year concealed weapons permit would be issued to applicants. Law enforcement could object, and an applicant could appeal to a seven-member board designed to have people with such credentials as former judges or FBI agents. A person would have to complete 16 hours of training before getting a gun.

A series of provisions were designed to prevent people with mental health problems from getting guns. “We don’t want to mentally ill people to have firearms, period,” said Phelps, the House’s main gun rights supporter and a major negotiator.

Attempts were made to allow gun owners to carry through different communities without getting hung up on a patchwork of local laws. Chicago’s ban on assault weapons would be kept intact, but towns that don’t already have a ban would be prevented from adopting them.

The Senate quickly passed the bill 45-12-1. The House vote was 89-28. The bill needed three-fifths votes in both chambers because it would affect home-rule cities like Chicago.

“We worked really hard on this bill to come up with something that we think everybody can live with, but probably everybody won’t be happy with,” said sponsoring Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton. “But it’s something we need to do.”

“We’re not there yet on this bill, not even close,” said Sen. Dan Kotowski, D-Park Ridge, who said the 16-hours of training required in the bill was not enough.

Gov. Pat Quinn’s spokeswoman offered the administration’s standard response when asked about the bill, saying Quinn would review it when it reaches his desk.

Democrats and Republicans got up to speak in favor in the Senate. “This bill is for the common good of all citizens, those who live in our dense cities, those who live in our rural areas, it’s time to put this issue to rest,” said Sen. William Haine, D-Alton.

“We all know but for the Constitution and the federal court, we might not be here today,” said Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington. “I think what’s most important is like 49 other states in the nation, the citizens of  Illinois will enjoy a right and will become comfortable with because we crafted a good law, at least as a start.”

State lawmakers have wrestled over how to bridge the state’s regional and philosophical divide between gun rights advocates and gun control proponents. In the latest version, both sides budget, and lawmakers indicated the city of Chicago and the National Rifle Association both registeried as neutral. But Chicago’s anti-gun lawmakers still contended the bill was not strong enough even as other lawmakers wanted fewer restrictions.

“We got a bill everybody can live with,” said Forby, the sponsor from Downstate Benton who has long fought for gun rights. “Everybody agreed nobody liked” the bill, Forby said, “But it was something we had to do by July 9. … Nobody wanted to go over the cliff.”

Attempts were made to allow gun owners to carry through different communities without getting hung up on a patchwork of local laws.

But Forby got peppered by lawmakers who worried that the legislation opened up the potential to allowing a person with a firearm owners identification card to have as many as 100 guns in his car trunk without  violating laws. Forby said he saw nothing illegal, prompting some lawmakers to shake their heads in disappointment.

Democratic Sen. Tony Munoz, a Chicago policeman, also questioned why the legislation would allow people to carry concealed weapons in places where more than half of the sales are for food.

Forby said a restaurant or bar owner also can put up a sign that says no guns are allowed, but Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago, said the option is “ludicrous” because it would be hard to know who was complying with the sign unless there were a metal detector at the door. Forby parried that somebody always will break the law “no matter what you do.”

Democratic Sen. Kim Lightford of Maywood contended the bill fails to give “enough protections in violent situations.”

The elements of the bill came together in a meeting Thursday with Speaker Michael Madigan, who had pushed through a separate proposal.

I’d say being able to conceal carry would help protect a lot of people that end up in violent situations – hopefully in their defense!



Obama must be so proud…


Illinois credit rating sinks to worst in nation

Chicago Tribune: Illinois fell to the bottom of all 50 states in the rankings of a major credit ratings agency Friday following the failure of Gov. Pat Quinn and lawmakers to fix the state’s hemorrhaging pension system during this month’s lame-duck session.

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Service downgraded Illinois in what is the latest fallout over the $96.8 billion debt to five state pension systems. The New York rating firm’s ranking signaled taxpayers may pay tens of millions of dollars more in interest when the state borrows money for roads and other projects.

“It’s absolutely bad news for taxpayers,” said Dan Rutherford, the Republican state treasurer. Illinois received its bottom-of-the-pack ranking when it fell from an “A” rating to “A-minus.”

That’s the same rating as California, but California has a positive outlook. Illinois’ fragile overall financial status netted it a negative outlook, putting it behind California overall. The ratings came out now because Illinois plans to issue $500 million in bonds within days.

Exactly how much Illinois’ credit-rating slide ultimately will cost taxpayers is unknown until the demand for the state’s bonds is measured in the markets. But Rutherford estimated the state will pay $95 million more in interest than if Illinois had a AAA rating, which is much higher.

Even before the downgrade was revealed, Quinn said in Chicago the “pressure is higher than ever” to solve the pension problem because “credit rating agencies are screaming at the top of their voice” for final action. The Democratic governor and lawmakers couldn’t cut a pension deal despite his deadline for the outgoing legislature to act before the new General Assembly was sworn in Jan. 9.

On Friday, Quinn called for lawmakers to take up legislation sponsored by Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, that combines two rival pension plans emerging from the House and Senate. Both rein in costs by reducing benefits, an action unions have argued is unconstitutional. Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon said the rating agencies are “confirming what we all recognize. It’s time for action on pensions.”

House Republican leader Tom Cross of Oswego maintained Friday’s downgrade underscores the “gravity of Illinois’ fiscal crisis.” Moody’s already ranks Illinois 50th among the states, and Fitch ranks the state 49th but warns of a negative watch, Rutherford said.

One other ominous point in the Standard & Poor’s report is that inaction could lead to downgrading Illinois to “BBB,” an “unusual” low rating for any state. The agency noted a “lack of action on pension reform and upcoming budget challenges could result in further credit deterioration.”

“Most states will build reserves when the economy is performing well, and that typically provides a cushion when the revenues deteriorate,” said Robin Prunty, the S&P analyst who heads the agency’s state ratings group. “But Illinois has never really carried or accumulated any kind of budgetary reserves.

On top of the pension meltdown, Illinois faces more grim budget duties. The state already has made major cuts in school funding in two straight budgets, and the Quinn administration predicted more cuts are on the way. In addition, a 67 percent increase in the income tax rate lawmakers imposed in 2011 starts to decline in 2015. And the state has billions of dollars in unpaid bills.

Maybe when Illinois hits $16TRILLION+ in debt Obama will really be impressed.


Illinois going after guns, criminals volunteer to comply – not


Illinois Dems advance ban on most modern firearms

Fox News: Illinois Senate Democrats advanced legislation late Wednesday to restrict  semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines, pressing forward with new gun  control measures in the waning days of the session over the objections of  firearms groups.

Amid the developments, the Illinois State Rifle Association issued an “urgent  alert” to its members warning them that Democratic legislators were trying to  push through last-minute anti-gun legislation.

There would be no exemptions and no grandfathering,” the group stated in its  alert. “You would have a very short window to turn in your guns to the state  police and avoid prosecution.

A Senate committee approved two bills, one dealing with the weapons and the  other with magazines. Democratic supporters could face a tough sell in the full  Senate.

One measure would ban the possession, delivery, sale and transfer of  semiautomatic handguns and rifles. People who currently own such weapons could  keep them but would have to register them. The bill would allow semiautomatic  weapons to be used at shooting ranges, but those facilities would be  regulated.

second amendment

National Rifle Association lobbyist Todd Vandermyde told lawmakers the bill would restrict about 75 percent of handguns and 50 percent of long guns in circulation today. He also said it would treat law-abiding gun owners like criminals, and is in conflict with Second Amendment rights upheld by the courts. “I’ve never seen a piece of legislation that tramples on so many court  decisions,” Vandermyde said.

The other bill, introduced by Democratic state Sen. Dan Kotowski, would limit  ammunition magazines to 10 or fewer rounds.

Those pushing for enhanced restrictions say stricter rules are needed in the  wake of a string of high-profile mass shootings — most recently the deadly  school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn had been trying  earlier this year to pass new legislation in the wake of the Colorado movie  theater shooting, but lawmakers are taking another crack at it.

Kotowski sponsored legislation in 2007 that would have prohibited assault  weapons and .50-caliber rifles. His bill made it through a Senate committee but  died on the floor.

Another Democratic state lawmaker, Antonio Munoz, introduced the ban on all  assault weapons “designed for war.” Quinn has repeatedly tried to get stricter laws on the books but has fallen  short.

The state Senate got back to work Wednesday. The House plans to return  Monday. Both legislative bodies are working against a Jan. 9 deadline — when  the state’s new General Assembly will be sworn-in.

Gun manufactures in Illinois have already threatened to leave the area if  laws limiting guns are put in place. ArmaLite owner Mark Westrom told  FoxNews.com that he’s been fielding offers from at least two others states to  move his operation if gun control laws in Illinois are pushed through.

I’m sure all the criminals will readily volunteer to comply with this law. Especially those in Chicago, where five murders have already occurred during the first three days of the year.


A Nugget from the Wayback Machine

Someone recently found this on the archive.org website’s Wayback Machine archive.  It was published in a Kenyan newspaper in 2004 about native son, Obama’s run for the U.S. Senate.

H/T  Charlotte Iserbyt