Illinois lawmakers have learned cutting the state’s Medicaid program will be harder than they thought. The governor estimates the state must cut $2.7 billion out of Medicaid this year to get costs under control. But national Medicaid expert Joy Johnson Wilson of the National Conference of State Legislatures says the state’s hands are tied in some areas due to the Affordable Care Act of 2009, such as the number of people it must add to Medicaid and revising eligibility standards.
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Revising eligibility standards is a point of contention in Illinois, as it’s been discovered thousands on Medicaid shouldn’t be. The Affordable Care Act also will require the state to accept more people onto its Medicaid rolls, though the federal government will initially help foot the bill. The only thing left? Optional services like prescription drugs and dental care. “Is it $2.7 billion worth? I don’t think so, but those are some scenarios to look at,” Wilson says. “But you’re right, you’re very limited in what you can do to get savings in the program.” Johnson says lawmakers should weigh long-term costs versus short term gains when considering which optional Medicaid services to cut.