SPRINGFIELD -- Area lawmakers are racing against the calendar to try to get Urbana-based Health Alliance part of the state's Medicare Advantage health care contract for retirees.
State Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, said Tuesday he had met with members of the Quinn administration and the Department of Central Management Services to see if Health Alliance could be added to the retiree health care contract that already has been awarded to four providers, United Healthcare, Humana Health Plan, Humana Benefit Plan of Illinois and Aetna Life Insurance Company.
Health Alliance underbid the competitors by potentially millions of dollars but its bid was eliminated on a technicality.
"I want to see if there are ways that we can save more money in our retiree health insurance," Frerichs said.
"I think (the administration) realize that they perhaps missed out on some potential savings for the state of Illinois by putting in what I believe to be arbitrary minimum requirements, and I think they would like to capture those savings. The question now is how can we legally do that."
Frerichs said administration officials "can't dispute that Health Alliance was the lowest bidder. Some would say they were inappropriately excluded. Others would say that maybe the administration focused too much on following the procurement code and couldn't see the forest from the trees.
"Our goal should be providing the best service to the most people at the lowest cost, and I don't think the last (request for proposals) did that."
In a Senate resolution introduced last month, state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, estimated that the Health Alliance bid could have saved the state $60 million to $280 million over 10 years.
Frerichs said he wasn't sure whether undoing the Medicare Advantage contracts, or awarding a smaller, regional deal was possible.
"I'm not an attorney, and contracts apparently have been signed, so I can't say for certain. I don't think we would want to do the entire RFP because that would push back the implementation date (Jan. 1) and that would cost the state money," he said.
"But we could have perhaps a supplemental RFP where we offer another, overlapping product to give retirees greater choice and save the state money."
Frerichs said that "time is of the essence," and "if we want to do something that is the least disruptive as possible, I think a decision has to be reached this week.
"We can always come back in January or February and pass legislation that mandates certain things but at that point it's really too late."
Rose said he feared it already may be too late to do anything to get Health Alliance a contract.
"Every day that goes by it's just closer to being over. If (Gov. Pat Quinn) was on board and did something a few weeks ago, maybe we could have done something," he said.
He urged retirees to attend upcoming, state-sponsored workshops on the Medicare Advantage program.
"The reality is the retirees will be able to go just about anywhere they want to go. Ninety percent of the doctors in America take this," he said. "But the taxpayers are going to end up paying more because even though the retiree will pay the in-network price, we're paying an out-of-network price."
The first workshop will be Nov. 13 at the Bremer Center at Danville Area Community College. Two days later a workshop will be held at the Illinois Terminal, 43 E. University Ave., C.