Senate Week in Review: September 1 – 5, 2014

A state audit revealed continued problems in the Expanded All Kids state health insurance program; a bipartisan legislative committee is set to begin its review of state rules on hydraulic fracturing; and patient applications are now being accepted for the state’s medical marijuana program, State Sen. Dave Luechtefeld (R-Okawville) said.

Audit: Problems Continue in All Kids

A new state audit showed problems continue with lax oversight in the Expanded All Kids state health insurance program. State agencies in charge of the program were cited for failing to conduct annual eligibility reviews, failure to verify income, duplicate enrollments and continuing to pay benefits for patients who were too old to qualify for the insurance program.

The Expanded All Kids program covers about 84,500 children and provided $75.2 million services to children during the audit period. Among the audit’s major findings.
Out of nearly 35,000 recipients required to have an annual review of their eligibility for the program, 32 percent were not reviewed annually as required;
The two state agencies assigned to determine income eligibility did not verify one month’s income as required;
During the audit period, 154 recipients received 1,966 services (an average of 12.7 per recipient) after they had turned 19 and were no longer eligible;       
The Expanded All Kids program continues to have children who are coded as undocumented immigrants even though they had verified social security numbers or alien registration numbers;
There was a lack of documentation to verify the Illinois residency of recipients;
Eight out of 10 recommendations from previous audits were repeated in the latest audit.

The audit provided new fodder for those critical of the Quinn administration’s management of Medicaid costs by raising continuing issues about the ability or willingness of state program administrators to adequately monitor eligibility and purge individuals who do not qualify.

Legislative Committee to Review Hydraulic Fracturing Rules

A bi-partisan compromise meant to spur jobs and encourage energy independence is finally making its way toward implementation, more than a year after being passed.

Proposed rules for implementing Illinois’ new hydraulic fracturing rules are set to be reviewed by the legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) Sept. 16.  The legislation, SB 1715, was approved May 31, 2013 with overwhelming support from both parties and was widely viewed as model legislation with major business and environmental organizations supporting the compromise.

However, since being signed into law, the implementation has moved slowly, with many critical of the state’s Department of Natural Resources, for what they viewed as foot-dragging.

When lawmakers review the proposed rules, they will debate whether or not the agency overstepped its authority in writing proposed rules to implement the new law.

The bipartisan JCAR is an important, but little noted, committee of legislators assigned to review the rules that state agencies must adopt when implementing legislation. It is their responsibility to assure that the executive branch rules match up with what the legislature intended when a bill was passed. 

On-line Voter Registration Available

Persons have until Oct. 7 to register online to vote, a new option available this year.

The Illinois State Board of Elections online voter registration site went live in June and by the end of August, about 5,000 persons had used the system.

That number is expected to increase in coming weeks. Interested persons can go directly to the State Board of Elections online voter registration site or find a link on State Senator Luechtefeld’s website.

Medical Marijuana Programs Accepting Applicants

Illinois’ pilot medical marijuana program has begun accepting applications from patients – but only for those whose last names begin with the letter “A” through “L.”

In order to manage the expected volume of applicants, the Illinois Department of Public Health has staggered the application period, with a first round now underway and a second beginning Nov. 1 for those with last names beginning with “M” through “Z.”

Patients must pay a $100 annual application fee. Military veterans and patients on Social Security Disability Income will pay $50 for the application.

Staggering the time frame for applications will not affect when patients can actually purchase medical marijuana, since marijuana dispensaries and growing centers must also apply and be approved. It is likely to be well into 2015 by the time those applications are approved, facilities are built and the first crop of marijuana is cultivated and available to patients. 

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