CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that the landmark Illinois Health Connect program, which guarantees a medical home for every child in the Governor’s All Kids program and every parent in FamilyCare, has enrolled more than 4,000 doctors statewide – far surpassing the original goal to enroll 3,000 doctors. Even more doctors are expected to enroll as the program, which was launched in Chicagoland in March, continues to roll out in Central and Southern Illinois this summer. Illinois Health Connect is a continuation of Governor Blagojevich’s nationally recognized efforts to ensure that every family in Illinois gets the healthcare they need.
“Physicians know that their patients are healthier when they have access to a primary care doctor who can provide regular checkups and preventative care,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “We are very pleased with the overwhelming response from the physician community, and encourage doctors in all regions of the state to enroll as primary care doctors for their All Kids and FamilyCare patients.”
Through Illinois Health Connect, every child in All Kids and every parent in FamilyCare will have a primary care doctor who will make sure they are getting regular check-ups and preventive care. The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) unveiled Illinois Health Connect in Cook and the Collar Counties in March, and will begin rolling out the program in the northwest region of the state and then in the central and southern regions of Illinois in the coming months. Through extensive outreach to doctors, through professional organizations, hospitals and direct office visits, HFS has already enrolled more than 4,000 doctors to be primary care physicians.
“Illinois Health Connect represents a major change in the way the State delivers health care,” said Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Director Barry Maram. “In the past, the state’s role in providing health care was to determine eligibility and pay medical bills. With the new system we will do much more. We will be an active participant in providing health care, focusing on patient outcomes, and preventive care. I am pleased that physicians around the state share our vision and have joined with us to improve the lives of working families.”
Physicians and medical groups around the state have voiced their support of Illinois Health Connect. In March, Christie Clinic in Champaign announced that they will take 3,500 All Kids and FamilyCare clients in addition to the clients they already serve in anticipation of the launch of Illinois Health Connect in their area.
"Illinois Health Connect is beneficial to patients who will now get regular medical care and avoid unnecessary trips to the emergency room. In addition to providing a medical home for patients, it also provides a financial boost to community health centers around the state," said Irene Pierce, Director of Primary Care Services at the Lake County Health Department. "We are pleased to be signed up as part of the Illinois Health Connect program, and look forward to continue working with the State of Illinois to help families in our community get the care they need."
As Illinois Health Connect is launched in each region of Illinois, All Kids and FamilyCare families will receive information in the mail on selecting a primary care physician. If they do not choose a primary care physician, one will be assigned for them.
In conjunction with the launch of Illinois Health Connect, HFS also announced the launch of the Illinois Nurse Helpline, which is available to every participant in state healthcare programs and provides back-up support to enrollees who cannot reach their primary care physicians after-hours or on weekends as a means of minimizing unnecessary emergency department use and helping participants learn skills that can help stop serious medical problems before they start. HFS Medical Program participants may contact the Illinois Nurse Helpline Monday-Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. (CST) and 24 hours a day on Saturday and Sunday. The Illinois Nurse Helpline telephone number is: 1-800-571-8094, (TTY: 1-800-571-8419). The call is free.
HFS has taken a number of steps to encourage doctors to enroll as Primary Care Physicians, including:
- Raising rates for Maternal and Child health providers to be comparable to private insurers
- Guaranteeing, for the first time in state history, that doctors will be paid for their services in no more than 60 days from the time a clean bill is received by the state.
- Guaranteeing that doctors who treat children in the All Kids program will be paid in 30 days or less.
- Providing an additional $2 per month/per child to doctors enrolled as Primary Care Physicians, which could add up to thousands of dollars each month in addition to regular payment for services.
The Governor’s All Kids program makes comprehensive health insurance available to all uninsured children, and All Kids covers immunizations, doctor visits, and many other healthcare services such as hospital stays, prescription drugs, vision care, dental care, as well as medical devices like eyeglasses and asthma inhalers. Some parents pay monthly premiums and co-payments for a variety of services.
FamilyCare offers comprehensive healthcare coverage to low-income parents living with their children 18 years old or younger.