Ill. gov. signs $2.7B Medicaid cuts, cigarette tax
CHICAGO (AP) -- Illinois 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 per pack and $1.6 billion in Medicaid spending reductions.
"One of our most important missions in Springfield this year was to save Medicaid from the brink of collapse," Gov. Quinn said in a statement. "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."
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.
Opponents of the legislation have said the cuts will decrease access to health services and hurt the poor, elderly and disabled.
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.
The bills are SB2840, SB2194, HB5007, SB3397 and SB3261.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)