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Health care cuts move forward - McNary: "It affects more people than any other cut."

Date: 
05/24/2012

From the Chicago Tribune:

Health care cuts gain steam in Illinois House

By Ray Long

12:17 p.m. CDT, May 24, 2012

SPRINGFIELD --- House lawmakers today pushed forward with deep cuts in the state's health-care system for the poor, a plan that the fate of the state's overall budget rests upon.

Gov. Pat Quinn has pressed for a combination of cuts in care and a $1-a-pack increase in the cigarette tax to fill a $2.7 billion shortfall in the Medicaid program.

"Our goal here today is to stabilize the Medicaid program," said Julie Hamos, who heads Quinn's Department of Healthcare and Family Services.

The bill now goes to the full House.

One piece dropped from the package was a provision Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle sought to capture more money to help pay for low-income care within the county's borders.

One advocacy group particularly objected to the elimination of a senior pharmacy assistance program called Illinois Cares Rx, which provides discount drug coverage for 180,000 low-income seniors and people with disabilities across Illinois.

"It affects more people than any other cut," said William McNary, co-director of Citizen Action-Illinois. "We believe that these cuts are very damaging. People will not get less sick."

McNary warned that shutting down the drug discount program is a "big mistake" because it will hurt senior citizens on fixed income and may end up causing more people to go into the Medicaid program.

"This is far from a perfect bill," said Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, a Chicago Democrat who is sponsoring the proposal. "We will probably never have a perfect Medicaid bill."