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Senators demand answers from state agencies in “flawed” transition to YouthCare program

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SPRINGFIELD (Capitol Bureau) -- The families of former foster care children in Illinois are running into problems filling prescriptions and finding doctors.

This comes after the state enrolled roughly 19,000 former foster children with complex needs into a new healthcare program under IlliniCare Health.

The state is in the process of moving nearly 36,000 children into IlliniCare's specialized program called YouthCare.

But due to a "glitch" over the weekend, at least 2,500 children who opted out of that program were eliminated from the Managed Care insurance system.

Attorney Danielle Gomez with the Cook County Public Guardian's Office says the state agencies need need to rethink their process before they put more families through hardship.

"We urge that our state not be bound by an arbitrary deadline for transitioning youth into Managed Care, but instead be guided by the goal of insuring that our current and former youth in care's needs are competently met," Gomez added.

She says no children should be placed in Managed Care until there is a plan for better communication.

"When do we ever get into that discussion about really addressing the issue of what should we be doing," asked Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria). "It's not whether we're doing things right. Are we doing the right things? That's my frustration."

Senators called for change Tuesday, seeking answers for families left out in the cold.

"They didn't do a good job of communicating how the program was going to work and what the rights are of the parents and of the child," Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) said.

The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services says the goal of switching to YouthCare is to give patients a higher quality of care.

HFS officials say the agency has increased the amount of providers for children in care of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services by 83%.

"Why are we discriminating?"

"If we thought this system was adequate enough to have our former youth in care engaged in it but not the kids who are currently in foster care, why are we discriminating," asked Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield). "If it's not good enough for one group, why is it good enough for another?"

HFS Behavioral Health Chief Kristine Herman says eventually all kids should go on the same system, but her department is taking extra caution to make sure the systems are ready for "additional complexities that come with youth in DCFS care."

Some Senators say the state should have done more before the transition.

"That's what we hear from Managed Care, that it's more accountable," added Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill). "It's going to contain the costs, it's going to raise the outcomes. It's been everything but that."

Sen. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) agrees, adding everyone needs to "sit down and feel a bit more confident about this."

"This is not ready and we want to make sure that we're providing the best healthcare as opposed to a cost-containment model. I think we should build the model before we worry about cost."

Children currently in DCFS care will transition to the YouthCare program on April 1, but lawmakers want to make sure these issues are resolved before then.

A rapid response team is available for families in need of help.

You can call 844-289-2264 or send an e-mail to ILYouthCare@Centene.com.

Sheridan Swathwood

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