Durbin, Duckworth call on MCOs to address lead poisoning risk for children

Illinois’ two Democratic senators have called on Medicaid managed care organizations to do more to address lead poisoning risks to children in Chicago. [Health News Illinois]

Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin urged the heads of the state’s five MCOs to take presumptive preventive action to protect children. That includes sending drinking water test kits, water filters, home visitors and educational materials to all enrolled children in the city.

“The health risks posed by lead exposure to children are severe, damaging and irreversible,” the lawmakers wrote. “Medicaid managed care organizations must respond to this crisis with all of the public health prevention tools at their disposal as well.”

A report last month found that nearly 70 percent of Chicagoans 5 and younger are exposed to lead-contaminated drinking water. It also found Chicago has more lead service lines than any other American city.

The senators said there is a “moral imperative” to prevent negative health outcomes and that Illinois could benefit by up to $89 billion in avoided health costs by investing in lead pipe remediation.

The Illinois Association of Medicaid Health Plans, which represents the industry, did not return a request for comment.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says children on Medicaid face a specific and presumptive risk of lead exposure. If a child tests for an elevated blood lead level, states must provide diagnostic and treatment services.