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Cook County Public Guardian Says State Health Care Change Could Put 18,000 Foster Kids At Risk

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Medical care for 18,000 foster children is at risk, according to Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert.

Golbert said it is due to a planned change in insurance coverage slated to happen in just a few weeks.

As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported Thursday, this has been an ongoing concern.

The transfer to the new managed care plan, called YouthCare, was supposed to take place April 1. Then the pandemic hit.

But those who fear for children's access to health care will be hurt by the change have been fighting the plan for almost a year. And they have taken their concerns straight to Gov. JB Pritzker.

"I would say that my concerns have intensified given, you know, the pandemic," said Grace Brown.

Brown parents seven children, four of whom are foster kids. We met Brown back in January, when the State of Illinois was set to switch to a managed care health insurance plan for its 18,000 children in the foster system.

Golbert flagged potential problems with the switch back then, and he's even more worried now.

"It makes no sense," he said. "No matter how you slice and dice the results of this exercise, this is a mess for foster parents."

The change to the new YouthCare managed care plan is now set for Sept. 1. Last week, Golbert wrote a letter to Gov. Pritzker, urging him to delay the rollout.

Golbert cited an inaccurate doctor database, provider confusion, and coverage denials as reasons for his concern.

"I think we're in big trouble on September 1," said attorney Brian Finley.

Finley has reason to say that. He spent 30 hours over eight days making calls to listed YouthCare family medicine doctors to find one who would see a fictional 10-year-old Vernon Hills boy.

Only seven of those providers said yes, they would accept a 10-year-old patient, while 111 of those he called said no.

"One is they don't take YouthCare; two, they've never heard of YouthCare; three, they're retired, they've moved," Finley said.

Theresa Eagleson, Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, wrote back to Golbert about his concerns. Eagleson said Finley conducted his search all wrong, defending the provider list and accessibility.

But Brown said the problems are real.

"I'm not a secret shopper. I'm literally shopping for my children, and I am finding the same thing," she said.

"We're very concerned about this happening in three weeks," Golnbert said. "The state is so clearly not ready, and we're not going to let this go."

Golbert said he is writing another letter to the governor, talking to lawmakers, and is also considering a lawsuit.

SO if Golbert said the change makes no sense, then why make the change to YouthCare at all?

The state's answer, according to a July news release, is that there will actually be three times more providers than there are now – including more access to specialized care. But Colbert refutes that claim, and said the purpose is just to save money.

Kozlov reached out to a representative for Healthcare and Family Services to ask how much money, if any, was being saved. That question had not been answered as of Thursday evening.



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