* From the Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois’ Marvin Lindsey…
The launch of a new state computer system designed to create a “more efficient system” of registering Medicaid recipients to receive mental health care and addiction treatment services has had the opposite effect, according to advocates.
The Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) new “Integrated Eligibility System” has failed to function as intended and has disrupted care for “thousands” of individuals with mental illness. The glitch has also stalled payment to providers as processing patient registration has ballooned to a 90-day delay in many cases, leading to “chaos and delay”, says the Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois (CBHA), a statewide advocacy group.
“Since DHS’ new computer system went live in October 2017, we have been telling DHS that a computer glitch has unleashed chaos and delays for individuals in need of behavioral health services,” said CBHA CEO Marvin Lindsey. “Now we’re in January 2018, and the problem remains unresolved and thousands are being affected as a result.”
DHS’ top official, Secretary James Dimas, acknowledged in a December 18, 2017 letter to the advocacy group that his agency’s new computer system has been hit by delays.
“As with any new technology system this large and complex, as we adjust to this new system IDHS has experienced some delays in the assignment and processing of Recipient Identification Numbers (RINs) which are required for billing and receiving payment for rendered services,” Dimas wrote. “[…] At the current time the backlog is between 10 and 12 days …”
CBHA’s Lindsey fired back in his own letter hotly disputing Dimas’ 10 to 12-day backlog claim after hearing an uproar from his member agencies, saying it’s closer to 60 days and in other cases more than 90.
“I would like to make a correction to your statement that the current time the backlog is between 10 and 12 days,” Lindsey wrote. “We have members who are still waiting on e-RINs to be processed from as far back as September. Most of our members are reporting delays from 30-60 days.”
Lindsey also warned Dimas that DHS’ computer system dysfunction was blocking access to care for those with “behavioral health illness.”
“Some of our members are reporting up to 350 people awaiting e-RINs, which, again, means there are 350 people who could not access treatment,” Lindsey said in his letter. “While the 350 clients are on the high end and cover delays of about 60 days, many of our members are reporting delays from 30-45 days, but, more importantly, consumers seeking help for their behavioral health illness are not able to access treatment.”
Lindsey said that his group has been working with the state agency but the problem remains unresolved.
“The seriousness of the problem has yet to break through to the department officials,” Lindsey said. “We need a fix. And we need it last week.”
The breakdown of DHS’ behavioral health patient registration system is the latest debacle linked to the state’s new computer system. In December, more than 40,000 Illinois families lost their food stamp benefits because of a glitch in the state’s new technology platform.
Helping individuals access mental health services in the community is a top priority for IDHS and our staff work tirelessly to ensure that we are facilitating the process of receiving those services. We are aware that the processing of Recipient Identification Numbers (RINs), which are required for billing and receiving payment for services, is behind. We believe this issue to be related to a series of retirements in this unit which reduced staff by more than half. We have implemented a temporary staffing plan that will more than quadruple the current staff dedicated to this issue and would eliminate the backlog in 2-3 months.
Contrary to Mr. Lindsey’s note to the press, department officials take this issue very seriously. We have been working collaboratively with the Illinois Association of Behavioral Health to explore different options to expedite the process. We welcome CBHA to engage with us in a similar discussion.
COMPTROLLER MENDOZA CALLS FOR REVIEW OF RAUNER ADMINISTRATION’S $100,000-A-DAY TOLLWAY DEAL
Deloitte Consulting to receive additional $9 million for 90 days of ‘emergency’ help on costly statewide tech overhaul
Illinois Comptroller Susana A. Mendoza on Tuesday called for further review by independent procurement officials of an $8.9 million, 90-day ‘emergency’ contract between the Illinois Toll Highway Authority and Deloitte Consulting for the ‘continuation of implementation services’ for the State’s Enterprise Resource Program (ERP), a state Information Technology upgrade project that has ballooned in cost under the Rauner Administration.
In a document published online on Jan. 11, Tollway officials said the additional dollars are needed because the funds assigned to the project through the State’s Department of Innovation Technology (DOIT) are depleted.
“Failing to properly estimate cost and overspending is not an emergency - it’s poor project management. This is part of a pattern of cost overruns, missed deadlines and contract mismanagement by Governor Bruce Rauner and, once again, taxpayers are footing the bill,” Comptroller Mendoza said.
State procurement practices by the Illinois Department of Healthcare & Family Services were the topic of a series of recent hearings hosted by lawmakers. In December, the State’s Chief Procurement Officer determined the Rauner Administration had misapplied an exemption to award a $12 million consulting contract to McKinsey & Company. In an unprecedented step by the Chief Procurement Officer, the McKinsey contract with the Illinois Department of Healthcare & Family Services (HFS) was invalidated.
Mendoza pointed to a $67.5 million sole source contract with the state’s Department of Human Services (DHS) for additional work on another Deloitte project to provide food stamps and other benefits to Illinoisans as another recent example of contract mismanagement by the Rauner Administration. The cost of the Deloitte benefits contract has skyrocketed to $288 million—more than double the original $143 million budget approved in 2012.
The ‘emergency’ Tollway deal is not subject to competitive bidding or a public hearing. Unlike a sole source contract, there is no waiting period for it to take effect. It is not subject to review by the State’s independent Chief Procurement Officer or the State’s Procurement Policy Board. A contract bulletin posted last week provides no details as to how the $9 million will be spent.
Comptroller Mendoza has criticized the Rauner Administration for failing to publicly disclose information regarding ERP program goals, deadlines and costs. For nearly a year, DOIT has failed to answer basic questions from the Office of the Comptroller and lawmakers regarding the status of the ERP, program staffing and funding levels. Pending a response to repeated inquiries, the Office of the Comptroller has placed a hold on payment of certain ERP contracts, representing just two percent of the FY2017 DOIT budget.
Comptroller Mendoza said applying an emergency contract designation when it’s not merited sets an alarming precedent.
“Procurement rules should be a check on irresponsible spending. Those rules are being circumvented here and we would ask that the State’s independent procurement officials review the contract and determine if this is an appropriate use of an emergency contract. To me, the Tollway has failed to make a convincing case. This isn’t a broken water main that poses a danger to drivers on a state roadway. Before a cash-strapped state starts handing over $100,000 a day there should be vetting via an open and transparent process.” Comptroller Mendoza said.
By statute, the conditions under which emergency procurements can take place include a threat to public health or safety; protecting against further loss or damage to State property; preventing disruption in services that affect health, safety or the collection of substantial state revenues; or capitalizing on a discounted price to take advantage of cost savings.
Schools do better under current school funding formula than SB 444
Last year, Illinois lawmakers passed, and the Governor signed, historic school funding reform. Then, during the fall veto session, the General Assembly passed a trailer bill (Senate Bill 444) making two technical changes dealing with how Equalized Assessed Valuation (EAV) is calculated in the new school funding formula. The trailer bill advanced so the modeling done by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) for the new formula matched up with the bill that was passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor.
This is unprecedented in terms of school funding; where typically lawmakers get a model of the bill as it was enacted, rather than changing the enacted bill to match the modeling. Unfortunately, ISBE pointed out the discrepancy too late. However, as it turns out, Illinois school districts fare much better under the state’s historic new funding reform law (passed last summer) than they would under SB 444. It is also worth noting ISBE has told staff that “implementation of the new funding law will occur regardless of SB 444” and they will “allocate tier funding based on the law as written.”
According to the Senate Republicans, Chicago Public Schools would receive $45.5 million more under the SB444 trailer bill, which was proposed by the ISBE.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act creates a new wrinkle for 529 college savings plans, which are tax advantaged. The bill would allow parents to use them for K-12 expenses, including private school choice, as well as postsecondary costs. The bill puts a $10,000 cap on the money people can set aside for K-12 in these plans.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and others have applauded the move, although DeVos said Tuesday the move has limitations. But others argue it will mainly help wealthier parents who can afford to set money aside, and those already sending their children to private schools.
In a last-minute twist, the Senate parliamentarian on Tuesday ruled that the slice of this provision that allowed 529 plan dollars to be spent on home schooling violated the chamber’s rule. The Senate and then the House voted to approve the bill without this provision covering home schooling costs.
* But Treasurer Frerichs just sent out a warning…
Families that use their Bright Start or Bright Directions college savings accounts to pay for tuition, fees or other expenses at private or parochial schools, including Catholic schools, would violate Illinois’ tax code, Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs cautioned today. Frerichs also emphasized that federal tax reform did not change any of the benefits for using Bright Start or Bright Directions to save or pay for higher education.
Illinois’ tax code specifically limits tax-free growth in Bright Start and Bright Directions accounts when used for qualified higher education expenses. As such, a distribution from a 529 plan for K-12 costs is not a qualified expense for Illinois tax purposes. Families who claim the deduction could face state tax penalties if caught by a state tax auditor.
“Our analysis concludes that families who use Bright Start or Bright Directions money on elementary or high school expenses and then cite those expenditures when seeking tax relief will be in conflict with state law and could incur tax penalties if audited by state authorities,” Frerichs said.
In Illinois, the 529 Bright Start and Bright Directions plans are managed by the state treasurer’s office. The recently passed federal tax package allows states to expand 529 programs to private and religious K‑12 tuition expenses in 2018 and beyond. The federal legislation took effect Jan. 1 and could affect tax filers in 2019.
Here is how the tax break works for Bright Start and Bright Directions college savers who are Illinois taxpayers: Contributions to the accounts reduce a taxpayer’s Illinois adjusted gross income up to $10,000 for individuals and $20,000 for married couples filing jointly. At the federal level, the earnings generated within Bright Start and Bright Directions are not subject to federal income taxes while they accumulate. Also, distributions from these plans are not subject to federal or state income taxes when used for qualified higher education costs such as tuition, mandatory fees, certain room and board, computers and required supplies.
When former Chicago City Council Inspector General Faisal Khan launched his not-for-profit anti-corruption group close to two years ago, he insisted it was independent and nonpartisan.
At the time, Khan refused to disclose who was funding the organization, which he called Project Six — a reference to the group of civic leaders who led the fight against Al Capone during Prohibition. […]
The most recent federal tax filing for the Illinois Policy Institute shows it gave $623,789 to Project Six in 2016 — 98 percent of the group’s first-year budget. The records don’t reveal — and Project Six officials haven’t said — where the rest of its money comes from.
The Illinois Policy Institute, in turn, has received extensive support from foundations tied to some of the country’s biggest Republican contributors, including the Koch, Mercer and Uihlein families, as well as Gov. Bruce Rauner and first lady Diana Rauner’s charitable foundation. […]
In the interviews, Khan offered shifting accounts of Project Six’s financial support. He initially denied the Illinois Policy Institute was among his group’s primary funding sources.
“We’re not getting the money from IPI,” he said. “We get money from all sorts of donors, but we don’t release their names because they fear reprisal from the city of Chicago.”
Gov. Bruce Rauner says there is potential for “superstar” talent to join the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.
The Republican governor is tasked with filling the seats for three trustee terms that expired this month. Rauner said he is interviewing a number of high-caliber candidates.
“If we could land one or two of the individuals we are talking with, it would be national or international headlines,” Rauner said while on a visit to Champaign’s Franklin Middle School on Wednesday. He indicated the candidates care about the UI and already have connections to the school.
As the board prepares to elect new officers Thursday in Chicago, Gov. Bruce Rauner has yet to choose an appointee for the ninth statewide seat vacated last January.
“Our administration is still in the process of considering candidates for this vacancy,” Rauner spokeswoman Rachel Bold said Tuesday.
Last January, three members’ terms expired: Democrats Patricia Brown-Holmes and Ricardo Estrada and Republican Karen Hasara. At the time, the governor said he hoped to fill those vacancies with “superstar” talent.
“If we could land one or two of the individuals we are talking with,” he said 11 months ago, “it would be national or international headlines.”
Bold did not respond to questions about whether those individuals were still in the mix.
Amazon today announced that it has picked 20 metro areas “to move to the next phase of the process” as it looks for a home for a second headquarters. The 20 areas in alphabetical order:
Montgomery County, Md.
New York City
The list is a broad mix of cities big and small, ranging from Columbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis to Los Angeles and New York. It includes many of the early favorites, including Austin, Denver, Boston, Toronto and Washington, D.C. Three of the 20 finalists are near the nation’s capital, where Amazon has 2,500 employees.
Chicago was seen as a likely contender, based on Amazon’s criteria of wanting to be in an urban area with more than 1 million people within 45 minutes of an international airport and preferably have direct access to mass transit.
“Today we are announcing the communities that will proceed to the next step in the HQ2 process. Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough — all the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity,” Amazon tweeted.
On its website, Amazon said, “In the coming months, Amazon will work with each of the candidate locations to dive deeper into their proposals, request additional information as necessary, and evaluate the feasibility of a future partnership that can accommodate our hiring plans as well as benefit our employees and the local community. We expect to make a decision in 2018.”
Illinois, Chicago and Cook County teamed up to offer more than $2 billion in incentives to Amazon, and offered 10 proposed sites. They are Lincoln Yards, a development along the Chicago River near Lincoln Park and Bucktown; the Downtown Gateway District, which includes space in Willis Tower and redevelopment of the old main post office and Union Station; City Center Campus, a proposed redevelopment of the state-owned Thompson Center in the Loop; the River District, a 37-acre development along the river and Halsted Street; the Burnham Lakefront, a Bronzeville development that includes the Michael Reese Hospital site; the 78, a development planned on 62 acres along the river between the South Loop and Chinatown; Fulton Market district properties controlled by multiple owners; Illinois Medical District redevelopment; the soon-to-be-vacated, 145-acre McDonald’s campus in Oak Brook, which the company will leave for Fulton Market; and more than 260 acres available for development on the longtime Motorola Solutions campus in Schaumburg, where Zurich North America recently built a new headquarters.
…Adding… Mayor Emanuel’s office…
Today’s news makes clear that Amazon recognizes Chicago’s great strengths - access to talent, transportation, higher education, affordability and quality of life, which are the keys to growth and prosperity.
As companies including GE Healthcare, ConAgra and McDonalds have concluded, Chicago offers unparalleled opportunities, and we are going to continue to work as a region to make the case to Amazon that Chicago is the ideal location for HQ2. We are prepared to compete at the next level and the next level after that.
Today, Citizens for Rauner is launching an extended television ad featuring all 11 minutes of the FBI wiretap between JB Pritzker and disgraced former governor Rod Blagojevich. It will air in every major media market in Illinois on Saturday, January 20 and Sunday, January 21.
It is in response to JB Pritzker’s claim that last week’s ad featuring his conversation with Blagojevich, in which his insider dealings were exposed, was “selectively edited.” That ad highlighted 60 unedited seconds taken straight from the Chicago Tribune reporting of the FBI wiretaps.
JB Pritzker cannot simply dismiss his conversations with a convicted former governor in which he lobbied for his own appointment to statewide political office and encouraged him to engage in a quid pro quo — especially in light of their well-documented, decades-long, cozy political friendship. JB Pritzker is part of the corruption and cronyism that has plagued Illinois for decades. The people of Illinois deserve better.
As far as the Blagojevich tape making Pritzker unelectable, the evidence would indicate even Rauner doesn’t necessarily believe so.
If he did, why would he be trying so hard to blow up Pritzker’s candidacy at this early stage before Pritzker is even the Democratic nominee?
At the very least, though, the recording is a significant problem for Pritzker, one that he keeps trying to shrug off in the affable style that is nearly as responsible for his popularity with Democratic insiders as his very deep pockets.
In an otherwise strong presentation to the Sun-Times’ Editorial Board, Pritzker stuck to his usual talking points when asked about his relationship with Blagojevich.
“Gov. Blagojevich broke the trust with the people of the state of Illinois, and he’s in prison where he belongs,” Pritzker said. “Sadly, we have a government and once again a governor that’s focused on themselves and not on doing what’s right for the people of the state of Illinois. I’m proud about doing public service. Any conversations I had were about doing public service, and any suggestion by Gov. Blagojevich of any contribution I rebuffed.” […]
My own take is that it’s less damning in its entirety than portrayed, though hardly reassuring.
Today, Daniel Biss announced the endorsement of former United States Senator Adlai Stevenson III.
“Daniel is the only Democratic candidate for governor with legislative experience, having served with distinction in both the House and Senate,” said Adlai Stevenson. “He knows state government—its structure, its processes, and how to pass the policies he believes in. He’s a reformer and a unifier with unparalleled intelligence and integrity. He’s not a billionaire—but the people of Illinois want elections, not auctions. After years of following Daniel’s career, I know he’s the leader we need to get Illinois back on track, and that’s why I’m proud to endorse him today.”
“It’s an honor to receive Adlai’s endorsement,” said Daniel Biss. “A dedicated public servant, long-standing advocate of good government reforms, and expert on all things Illinois politics, Adlai is a trusted friend and advisor. I look forward to having him on our team and to drawing on his experience and ideas as we fight for our shared values in this election cycle and beyond.”
In endorsing Daniel Biss, Adlai Stevenson III joins other progressive leaders and organizations including U.S. Congresswoman Robin Kelly, former Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon, State Representatives Kelly Cassidy, Carol Ammons and Will Guzzardi, and many more.