Ill. Gov. Wants New Tax, Spending Cuts to Save Medicaid

Friday, 20 Apr 2012 01:38 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn Thursday proposed a new $1 a pack tax on cigarettes and called for more cuts to Medicaid, saying both are needed to “save the entire Medicaid system from collapse.”

The proposal is part of an effort to slice nearly $3 billion from the government medical program that serves poor and low-income citizens, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“We have to act today,” Quinn said, noting the debt would affect other parts of Illinois government and would continue to get worse each year.

The state is already burdened by a backlog of $1.9 billion in unpaid bills to hospitals and providers. Quinn’s proposal calls for lowering some rates paid to providers, a plan that hospital lobbying groups have labeled “too drastic and too rash.”

Quinn received fire from both Republican and many of his fellow Democratic lawmakers. State Senate GOP leader Christine Radogno complained about the cigarette tax hike in a joint statement, while Democratic leaders registered their anger of patient care cuts they said would hurt the poorest.

“We want to protect the patients in these hospitals,” said Democratic Sen. Bill Haine. But he said he does agree with Quinn’s plan to restructure eligibility requirements so services are targeted at only those who need them.

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