From WILL - News Local/State -

Higher Ed Group Weighs In On Health Alliance Snub

The head of one Illinois retirees group says there are many unanswered questions regarding the state’s recent decision to remove Health Alliance from its list of Medicare providers in 2014.  

Linda Brookhart is the Executive Director of the State Universities Annuitants Association, which advocates for higher education employees and retirees.

She expects delays in setting up relationships with new doctors, since those currently on Health Alliance can’t use Carle Foundation Hospital, and may have to travel as far as Springfield for care.  Retirees are now being asked to apply for Medicare Advantage plans with Aetna Life, Humana Health, Humana Benefit or United Healthcare.

And Brookhart said there’s no way of even knowing the level of care will be same.

“People do not feel that they have had enough time to make that decision, and since the plan itself is not but rolled out yet - they don’t know what the plan consists of," she said.  "And if you talk comparable, what is comparable?  What is the definition of comparable to what they have now?”

Brookhart said the 15,000 retirees who rely on Health Alliance can’t even find out yet what the benefits are with the four other carriers now offered to them.

“CMS (Illinois' Department of Central Management Services) says, 'please don’t call the carriers because their staff isn’t familiar enough with the plan yet," she said.  "Well, the reason they’re not familiar enough with the plan yet because the plan isn’t really available for public consumption.  Or probably, there’s going to be a certain amount of training for staff.”

In 2011,  the state dropped Health Alliance contracts for retirees and current employees – prompting an uproar among legislators and court hearings that led to the decision being reversed. Brookhart questions whether the move is politically motivated, noting former Governor Rod Blagojevich tried to end Health Alliance contracts in 2004.

Brookhart said she’s heard no response from the state as to why it’s happening again for retirees – but is confident legislators will address the issue in the fall veto session late this month.

Categories: Government, Health