Illinois watchdog sues state healthcare agency over withheld Medicaid provider data

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An Illinois watchdog organization is scrapping with the state's healthcare agency as it allegedly withholds data on Meridian Health Plan of Illinois' performance.

The Better Government Association announced July 13 that it is suing the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services over not releasing performance data from YouthCare, its new initiative with Meridian Health Plan of Illinois, a subsidiary of Centene. 

While the agency announced the YouthCare contract secured Meridian Health Plan of Illinois $210 million, it did not provide routine performance data on the grounds that it would "put the company at a competitive disadvantage," according to the BGA. 

Since YouthCare's rollout, quarterly slideshows outlining its performance were available for dissemination, but when the BGA requested access to the slideshows in June, they were provided with sweeping redactions, the watchdog said. 

According to an Illinois HFS spokesperson, contracts between the state and vendors permit documents submitted to the state to be redacted if they are deemed to contain material that could cause competitive harm to the vendor.

"The Department is contractually obligated to consult with its vendor on releasing the information that was redacted, but without their consent we are bound by the contract," an Illinois HFS spokesperson said. "As a result, the Department responded to the FOIA by providing the requested documents, but with certain information redacted, as permitted under Section 7(1)(g) of the Freedom of Information Act."

The YouthCare program is a taxpayer-funded program that provides mental health treatment to children in the state's care.

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