Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s push to put more Medicaid patients in managed care programs is advancing, sparking concerns from critics who point to ballooning costs, a hurried timeline and negotiations that were shrouded in secrecy.

The state has finalized contracts with seven insurance companies worth about $15 billion a year, which were posted quietly to a state government website shortly before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Rauner has billed the plan as a money-saving initiative, a way to transition more patients to the managed care model in which the state pays a set amount to private insurers to administer health benefits, allowing them to derive profits from the savings they might create.

The new contracts commit the state to pay about $4.5 billion a year more for the managed care program — a more than 40 percent increase. Insurers, though, might have to absorb a smaller increase in patients. The Rauner administration offered only a wide range estimate for how many people would be added to the managed care program, with the potential increase ranging from 30 percent to 42 percent. The state’s Medicaid managed care program will be consolidated into the hands of fewer insurers while expanding its reach to serve all of Illinois’ 102 counties starting early next year.

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Rauner says Medicaid plan will save money despite increased contract costs