Parents, officials worried over health insurance change for foster children

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CHICAGO — Parents of current and former foster children in Illinois have serious concerns about how a new Medicaid plan for the children will impact them — particularly those with special needs.

In two days 19,000 former youth in foster care are being moved to new state insurance. The children are all foster kids who have been adopted or are now in subsidized guardianship through the Department of Children and Family Services.

Cook County public guardian, Charles Golbert said these are some of the state’s most vulnerable children.

“Some of these kids have been bounced around from placement to placement,” he said. “Some of these kids have been born drug exposed, have complex special needs.”

The transition to the new IlliniCare Health insurance is causing headaches because some parents said they have received no information about the transition.

The Cook County public guardian has sent multiple letters to the head of DCFS laying out their concerns.

“One woman had a child with 12 providers and not a single one of these providers were in the network,” Golbert said.

In Golbert's letters, one parent found the closest in-network primary care doctor was two hours away.

Another concern is IlliniCare's screening assessments. As of Jan. 27, Golbert said the company had no records or documentation for 25% of children who are supposed to be in its new network.

The Cook County public guardian worries about a severe disruption in critical care, calling this a dysfunctional mess and accusing the state of balancing its budget on the backs of medically fragile children.

His big concern is the impact on the foster care system as a whole.

“This is an incredibly perverse disincentive to be a foster parent," Golbert said. "Foster parents have told us, these are their words, that they've been lied to, been bamboozled sold down he river by DCFS."

There are also 17,000 current children in the DCFS system affected, but the transition for their insurance changeover has been delayed to April first.

We did reach out to both IlliniCare and DCFS for comment.

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