Gov. Pat Quinn today outlined his plan to overhaul the state’s health care system for the poor, an approach that includes a $1-a-pack hike in cigarette taxes coupled with deep cuts that will sharply curtail services.
The governor repeatedly has said the state must find $2.7 billion in savings from the Medicaid the Medicaid program or risk its collapse under billions of dollars in debt.
Quinn proposed $1.35 billion in program cuts and reductions, which range from eliminating a discount prescription program from seniors to limiting eligibility that would remove thousands of patients from the insurance rolls. He also wants to slash rates for hospitals and other health care providers, which he says will save $675 million.
To offset the need for some cuts, the governor wants to raise cigarette taxes by $1 a pack, which his office says would generate about $675 million for healthcare once federal matching dollars are added in.
"If we don't deal with this problem right now, it will just get worse," Quinn said at a Springfield news conference this afternoon.
"We have to make some fundamental changes," Quinn said, noting the reductions, cuts and efficiencies have been "difficult."
Raising the tax of cigarettes by $1 a pack is part of a balanced approach that will cut down on the number of youngsters and help the state collect more matching federal funds, he said.
"We can't stand on the side and do nothing about it," Quinn said.
Republican leaders Christine Radogno of Lemont and Tom Cross of Oswego criticized Quinn for including the cigarette tax hike to avoid making all of the necessary cuts.. They issued a joint statement that said they wanted to hold Quinn to his word, citing his February budget speech in which he said Illinois “must reduce” Medicaid spending by $2.7 billion.
They called for Quinn to keep working with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to find more reforms and cuts in the Medicaid program rather than tax hikes.
One member of the working group, Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, said he won’t support the cigarette tax increase. A substantial part of his legislative district borders Indiana, and he fears the cheaper cigarette taxes will prompt people to travel across the border to shop and go out to eat when they to go Indiana to buy cheaper cigarettes.
Another member of the working group, Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, said lawmakers will keep working with the governor’s office and a meeting is scheduled for next week.
She supported the governor coming forward with his own plan, saying he’s “proposing a whole solution.” But she cautioned that there’s “just not entire agreement” on the elements he’s rolled out.
Among Quinn's proposals:
-Eliminating the Illinois Cares Rx program, which provides access to discount prescriptions for 180,000 seniors and people with disabilities.
-Limiting eligibility for the state's Family Care insurance program for adults. Roughly 26,400 people would no longer qualify for coverage.
-Eliminating several so-called "optional" services the state provides that are not required by the federal government. They include group psychotherapy classes and chiropractic care for adults. Other optional services will be greatly curtailed, including occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech, hearing and language therapy for adults.
-Limiting podiatric care to patients with disabilities.
-Reducing hospice costs by 10 percent by working with providers to keep expenses down.
-No longer paying for electivec-sectiondeliveries and cutting the rates doctors are paid for delivering babies viac-section, which is more expensive than traditional delivery.
-Limiting who qualifies for weight loss surgery.
-Putting in place a review process before paying for certain medicines, including drugs that treat hemophilia, HIV and various forms of cancer.
-Placing a moratorium on new admissions to intermediate nursing care facilities and mental health facilities.
-Requiring patients to pay new and higher co-pays, including a $10 fee for unnecessarily seeking treatment at emergency rooms and new co-pays for those who receive generic drugs.
-Eliminating $13.8 million in grants to 11 teaching hospitals across the state.
The governor is scheduled to take questions on the topic in Springfield later this afternoon.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times