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State moving forward with transition to YouthCare despite concerns of advocates, foster parents

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Springfield, IL - Children in DCFS care will transition into a new healthcare provider network Tuesday. However, this move comes amidst scrutiny from child welfare administrators and foster parents.

The Capitol Bureau first spoke with Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert in late July when he sent a letter to the Pritzker administration asking for a delay for the transition to YouthCare. He's upset the change is going on as planned.

"The state is putting money over people," Golbert said.

He feels Illinois still lacks an adequate network of healthcare providers who can see children in DCFS care. His office tested the YouthCare provider database to find options for hypothetical patients for several weeks. Golbert says 65-90% of the providers listed on the database declined to see a child during this exercise.

"These poor foster parents are trying to find care and doctors for their children," Golbert explained. "They have to make 10 phone calls to find a single doctor on the list of doctors who allegedly signed up."

Some foster parents are already seeing the challenges with the YouthCare plan. The foster mother of a five-year-old boy with several complex medical issues says her son is losing all of his healthcare specialists. A YouthCare representative told her they would try to see if the specialists could take the new plan. But, there's no guarantee, and she's not holding her breath.

"These kids have a lot of issues. And you don't want to experiment on an MCO scheme on these kids in the middle of a healthcare pandemic," Golbert said.

Moving forward

The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services feels there is no need to delay this transition further.

"This is a network, a system to help those children and their families find care as opposed to having to go out on their own," DHFS Director Theresa Eagleson said.

She noted roughly 200 HFS care coordinators are available to answer questions for foster parents navigating the new program.

"I, like many parents, would be grateful for the added assistance in coordinating care for my kid especially if they had some significant needs."

The director says her department will do everything possible to make the program work for their customers. Still, Golbert is worried families will see a repeat of the YouthCare launch for former youth in care in February. A "glitch" in the program left 2,500 children without coverage.

"What happened in February was a very specific glitch, and it was only about people who opted out of YouthCare honestly. And it was because we postponed it at a fairly last minute timeframe," Eagleson explained. "We've actually tested the system, and we're not afraid of that same glitch happening this time."

Families seeking help or answers to questions about YouthCare can call 844-289-2264. The DCFS advocacy office is available to help by calling 800-232-3798 or emailing DCFS.HealthPlan@Illinois.gov.

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Mike Miletich

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