Illinois Medicaid Cuts: Legislators Shave $1.6 Billion From Budget

Illinois legislators have approved $1.6 billion in budget cuts to the state's Medicaid program, which will reduce health coverage for hundreds of thousands of poor Illinois residents.

The budget adjustments were passed by a 94-22 vote in the House, and the Senate approved it 44-13 Thursday evening, according to the Chicago Tribune. The plan will raise prescription drug costs for 180,000 low-income seniors by eliminating the state-paid pharmacy assistance program, Illinois Cares Rx, freeing up $72.2 million.

Another almost $399.8 million will be saved by making Medicaid and Family Care requirements stricter, rendering hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans ineligible for supplemented care, according to the Tribune.

Dental and vision care for adults will be heavily scaled back, and chiropractic and podiatric coverage has been cut altogether, according to St. Louis Today. During the floor debate Thursday, Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) outlined her objections to the cuts:

“They are...balancing the budget on the backs of the poor. I don’t see how they’re going to sleep.”

For months, Medicaid has been in the crosshairs of Gov. Pat Quinn as the state contends with a record-setting $13 billion deficit, with an overall $2.7 billion gap in Medicaid funding. While warning state residents and legislators that Medicaid cuts would be unavoidable, Quinn has also lobbied for a $1-a-pack increase in the state's cigarette taxes, which he estimates could generate an extra $337.5 million.

The bill’s sponsor in the House, state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), says the cuts will let the state “continue to take care of the most vulnerable people in the state of Illinois and keep Medicaid afloat, because right now I assure you that if we do nothing it will collapse,” according to Fox Illinois.