Crucial Plank of Obamacare Passes Illinois House
By Amanda Vinicky
In the waning days of its legislative session, Illinois took a major step toward implementing President Barack Obama's signature health care program.
Low-income adults who do not have children would, for the first time, be eligible for state-backed health care coverage under a measure approved on Monday in the Illinois House.
The Medicaid expansion is a signature plank of the federal Affordable Care Act.
It's expected the measure would add 500,000 people to Illinois' Medicaid rolls, though initially the cost is reimbursed by the federal government. Illinois' plan also includes changes to policies that affect nursing homes and hospitals.
The fact that Democrats, who hold solid majorities in the General Assembly, waited until this late in the session is telling. It is proof of how controversial "Obamacare" continues to be.
At issue is a key component of the Affordable Care Act of extending government-backed health coverage to individuals making under $15,000 who do not have children.
For the first couple of years, the federal government will reimburse Illinois completely for that cost, or at least hat is how it's set up now.
Republicans fear that Congress may change its mind. Rep. David Leitch (R-Peoria) implored his fellow state representatives to wait.
"We do not need to act today," Leitch said. "It is irresponsible to take the financial risk today."
But Democrats say Illinois and its residents are already paying that when someone without health insurance winds up in the emergency room, it ends up raising insurance premiums for everyone else.
"The issue is not cost; the issue is who is paying," said House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago). "This pocke or the other pocket, you should know that the cost of uncompensated care in emergency rooms adds about $1,000 a year to your constituents' health insurance premiums. That is not going to go away."
The plan was approved on a partisan basis, and it's expected the same will happen as it goes to the Senate.
Even some Democrats voted against it. Some lawmakers are political targets and anything involving "Obamacare" is seen as controversial.
The proposal now heads to the state Senate, where Democrats have an even larger majority than in the House.