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Gov. Quinn signs Medicaid cuts, cigarette tax into law

Date: 
06/15/2012

From the Lincolnwood Review, Chicago Sun-Times:

Gov. Quinn signs Medicaid cuts, cigarette tax into law

BY DAVE McKINNEY Springfield bureau chief 

June 14, 2012 8:48AM

Updated: June 14, 2012 4:06PM 

 Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn speaks with reporters in his office at the Illinois State Capitol Friday, June 1, 2012 in Springfield, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Gov. Pat Quinn achieved one of his top legislative priorities Thursday, signing a $2.7 billion package of cuts and taxes designed to repair a long-term deficit in the state’s Medicaid program.

The Chicago Democrat signed five bills, including a tax increase on cigarettes of $1 a pack and $1.6 billion in Medicaid spending reductions.

The cuts will mean leaner services for the state’s 2.7 million Medicaid patients. More than 25,000 working parents will lose state-funded insurance coverage.

“One of our most important missions in Springfield this year was to save Medicaid from the brink of collapse,” Gov. Quinn said. “I applaud the members of our working group and of the General Assembly, who worked together in a bipartisan manner to tackle a grave crisis.”

Quinn’s move drew criticism from advocates for the poor, who complained the governor and state lawmakers could have closed corporate “loopholes” to make up for Medicaid shortfalls rather than wringing savings from the state’s most vulnerable populations.

“The governor has repeatedly said these cuts are necessary to save Medicaid. That’s a false choice,” said William McNary, co-director of Citizen Action, which lobbied against the cuts.

“Saving money on the backs of the most vulnerable members of our community so other members of the community can have health care is like asking Sophie to choose between her daughter and her son’s life. There are going to be casualties,” he said.

The cuts — which take effect July 1 — will mean leaner services for the state’s 2.7 million Medicaid patients. More than 25,000 working parents will lose state-funded insurance coverage. Illinois is eliminating extras such as regular dental care for adults. Medicaid will no longer cover visits to chiropractors and only people with diabetes can see podiatrists. Eyeglasses will be limited to one pair every two years. Prior state approval will be required for wheelchair repairs, heart bypass surgery and obesity surgery. Patients will be limited to four prescription drugs per month without prior approval.

The cuts end a program called Illinois Cares Rx that helped nearly 200,000 senior citizens with prescription drug costs.

Investor-owned hospitals got a new tax break in the legislation, and nonprofit hospitals, which were in jeopardy of losing valuable property tax exemptions because of an Illinois Supreme Court ruling, won a broad definition of charity care that will allow them to avoid paying property taxes.

Cook County’s health system gained a clear path to federal matching money in an early Medicaid expansion tied to President Barack Obama’s federal health-care overhaul.