Attempt to block Health Alliance drop may be too late

State legislators are trying to assert their authority on the approval of public employee health insurance contracts. They passed a measure Monday giving themselves the ability to approve or deny new contracts. Though, it may be too late to stave off changes that are forcing one hundred thousand public employees to switch health care coverage.

The changes come in direct response to the recent ethics commission ruling that the state was right to drop the HMOs provided by Urbana-based Health Alliance and Humana. Legislators were outraged and said the contract award process was inherently flawed. The administration maintains it followed the rules set forth by legislators themselves.

Rep. David Leitch (R-Peoria)  says lawmakers should be able to overturn decisions.

“What kind of idiots would come up with a process that would permit this to happen?”

But others are worried injecting politics back into the contract award process is a dangerous road to follow.

“Maybe we should’ve said, ‘No, we don’t want arm’s length transactions.’ Maybe we should have said, ‘Wink, wink, nod, nod is the way to go,’ but we didn’t,” Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago) says.

The measure has passed in the midst of the annual open enrollment period, a time when workers can pick new health plans. The Governor’s office says workers only have until mid-June to make their choice or automatically end up in a new plan.

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