Thousands of people across Illinois are already facing the harsh reality of the state's new drug limits for Medicaid recipients. This past summer, Gov. Pat Quinn signed the Save Medicaid Access and Resources Together Act, or the "SMART" Act, that restricts Medicaid patients to four prescriptions a month, despite the fact that many patients rely on a combination of five or more medications to keep them healthy and avoid more costly care.
While the law allows for doctors to write more than four prescriptions for those who need it, they must first get approval from the state through a process that is plagued with problems. Doctors report that the phone and fax lines are constantly busy, leaving patients waiting for days or weeks without their medications. One provider we heard from called 22 times in one day and still did not get through.
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The Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois has received over 700 comments from providers who say the number of people with mental illnesses being denied their medications will soon result in an increase of costly visits to emergency rooms, an upswing in incarceration rates, increased substance abuse cases, more homelessness and unmanageable situations for families. Those are consequences that affect us all.
The SMART Act needs smart improvements before we start seeing catastrophic results. While it's always prudent to look at where we're spending public money, complicating and restricting medications to an already vulnerable population will not only hurt the patient, but also the state's long-term fiscal health. We will work with our colleagues across Illinois to have this drug limit repealed and to advocate for a more efficient and reliable medication management process. Our communities depend on it.
Rev. Denver Bitner
President and CEO
Lutheran Social Services of Illinois
CEO, Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois