Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Health Alliance: UPDATE!

This year the great State of Illinois dropped Health Alliance HMO from its list of providers and replaced it with two carriers that better serve the Chicago area but have no downstate presence. This caused a bipartisan uproar "downstate," where Health Alliance serves 100,000 state employees. (Disclosure: I am a happy Health Alliance member and cringed when I heard the news that the state was dropping HA).

I contacted Senator Frerichs (D-Champaign), "point man" in Springfield leading the charge to "reset" the button on bidding. Below is his email to those of us who subscribed to updates on this issue:

"There's been some confusion surrounding the State's recent decision to drop Health Alliance's contract for group health insurance. Much has happened in Springfield and we've learned new information since the Governor's office and the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) first announced this decision on April 6th. I want to take this opportunity to review what's happened so far, and update you on next steps.

I've posted this timeline on my website which walks us through major events, starting from the initial announcement on April 6 through May 11, when the Chief Procurement Officer at the Executive Ethics Commission officially began his review of Health Alliance's protest. I'd encourage you to explore the relevant documents and news articles linked to in the timeline to gain a full perspective.
I particularly want to highlight two important next steps in the process which will determine if Health Alliance will continue to be an option for quality, affordable health insurance in downstate Illinois.

First, it's important to know that upon discovering their contract was not renewed, Health Alliance immediately filed a protest of the decision. The review of this protest officially began May 11 at the Executive Ethics Commission. Look for a decision from Matt Brown, the Chief Procurement Officer, in the next few weeks.

Next, and regardless of the outcome of the protest review, current statute requires the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) to "advise and consent" on the new group health insurance contracts. There are some disagreements about what power this "advise and consent" language actually grants COGFA, but in my opinion, the language clearly implies COGFA's ability to reject new contracts. As I explained in a recent Op-Ed in the Champaign News-Gazette, my intention as one of the members of COGFA is to vote against the new contracts. Look for COGFA to announce its next meeting sometime in the next few weeks.

The best outcome we can hope for from either of these upcoming steps is this: the process will be re-started and contracts will be re-bid. If the protest review yields a favorable outcome, or if COGFA does not approve the new contracts, it essentially hits the "reset button." Current health care contracts could be extended during the re-bidding process so no one's current health care would be disrupted.

Keep an eye out for these next steps in the process, and I'll do my best to keep you informed as new information becomes available. Thank you to the hundreds of you who have reached out to my office to express your concerns. I appreciate your input and I'll continue to do my best to ensure access to quality, affordable healthcare for our community.

In order for us to continue to stay in touch, it's important that you have my updated email address, which is Please don't hesitate to email my office with any comments or concerns you may have.

Senator Michael Frerichs
45 E. University Ave.
Suite 206
Champaign, IL 61820
Office: (217) 355-5252     
Fax: (217) 355-5255
Danville Office:
28 W. North Street
1st Floor
Danville, IL 61832
Office: (217) 442-5252

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