SPRINGFIELD - The effects of the government shutdown have trickled down to thousands of Illinois state workers and retirees who have their health insurance coverage through state-run programs.

In an attempt to cleanse the state's insurance roles, the Illinois Department of Central Management Services signed a $690,000 contract with a Texas company earlier this year to ask recipients of various state health insurance programs to prove their dependents are really their dependents.

The company, Health Management Systems Inc. of Irving, Tex., sent letters this week asking retirees for documents from the Internal Revenue Service, which is partially shutdown because of the impasse between Republicans and President Obama.

William Britt, a retired teacher from Jonesboro, said he's worried he won't be able to comply with the request by the company's Oct. 25 deadline because no one knows how long the shutdown will last.

"I'm just aggravated over how to accomplish what they want," Britt said Wednesday.

In a note posted on its website Wednesday, CMS told recipients to order a federal transcript. If the document is not received within two weeks, retirees and employees should request an extension from Health Management Services.

Britt said he has applied for an extension.

Jim Bachman, executive director of the Illinois Retired Teachers Association, said he believes the state is addressing the situation.

"I think they recognize that it's going to create a problem," Bachman said.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union also supports an extension.

"CMS should ensure that the extension provides ample time for all health plan participants to respond," AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall noted in a statement Wednesday.

The audit encompasses employees in four state insurance programs, including the Teachers Retirement Insurance Program, the State Employees Group Insurance Program, the Local Government Health Plan and the College Insurance Program.

In bidding documents for the contract, the state makes it clear that failure to prove dependent eligibility will not be taken lightly.

"The state will suspend coverage for dependents of members failing to provide adequate documentation," procurement records show.

(Kurt Erickson can be reached at kurt.erickson@lee.net or 217-782-4043)

Springfield Bureau Chief for the Herald & Review

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