Gov. Quinn calls for Devastating Medicaid Cuts while Ignoring a Sensible Solution

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By Bill Bianchi, PDA-Illinois, Feb. 8th 2012

What in the world is Governor Quinn thinking with his call for devastating cuts to the state’s Medicaid program, the source of medical care funding for 22% of Illinois’ residents?

It looks like, as with the leaders in Greece and Ireland, the governor of Illinois is placing the cost of Wall Street’s criminal financial crisis squarely on the backs of the working poor.

Quinn has called for a 2 billion dollar reduction in Illinois’s Medicaid reimbursements—that’s roughly a 25% cut in the state’s share of Medicaid costs.(1)  Medicaid provides access to medical care for roughly 1 out of 5 Illinois residents.  And this new cut, if passed by the legislature, would come on top of last year’s cuts of 6%.

Quinn will try to mask the brutality of these cuts under the deceptive sound “of managed care”, a euphemism for privatizing care into HMOs. When has privatization health care ever led to lower costs?

For those of us who enjoy the top tier medical financing system funded by Medicare or the better private insurance and employer sponsored programs, it’s hard to grasp the hardship this will cause millions of people in our state and the medical providers who serve them.

Medicaid--passed by President Johnson in the 1960s along with Medicare--was set up with lower reimbursement rates and thus as a second tier of health care for low income working people and the unemployed. Over the decades, the difference between the first and second tiers has grown greater.

Many Illinois providers won’t take Medicaid patients because they cannot afford to.  Danny Chun, spokesman for the Illinois Hospital Association, said “Remember that Illinois already has extremely low reimbursement rates [that] don’t cover costs… and Illinois has not had a Medicaid reimbursement rate increase since 1995,” [In Illinois] “we get about 70 cents on the dollar [of cost]. On the Iowa side, it’s more like 95 cents,” Chun said. (2)

So Quinn’s cuts mean that more and more providers will be forced to say 'no' to Medicaid patients because they simply can’t afford to provide care at a big loss and stay in business. And those Medicaid patients shoved into HMOs will be funneled into increasingly restrictive low-end, low quality service options as the investor owned HMOs seek to maximize profits. That’s the history of HMOs.

Why is Quinn, the man who made his reputation standing up for the little people, doing this? Mostly likely, Quinn has learned that the little people have little clout in Illinois' corrupt political system.

But you ask, what should the Governor do in light of the state’s huge revenue deficits? The answer is clear.

Quinn should call for Illinois to adopt a proven approach that is used in every other industrialized country in the world. Those countries enjoy health care financing systems that provide universal quality health care with results often superior to those achieved in this country. The key is getting private, for profit insurance companies and HMOs out of the dominant position they enjoy here and replacing them with a system of improved Medicare for all.

Our national Medicare system provides the model. 50 million Americans enjoy unlimited access to most all providers with overhead costs below 4%, while private insurance over head runs up to 30%.

A bill for improved Medicare for all is in the Illinois legislature right now, thanks to Representatives Mary Flowers and Greg Harris.  It’s HB 311, The Health Care for All Act. To see how much Illinois would save with Medicare for All, visit the Physicians for a National Health Program-Illinois site, http://www.pnhpillinois.org/ and their key study on costs: http://www.pnhpillinois.org/financing2008.pdf

Governor Quinn, stop trying to balance your budget on the back of working people who put you in office and get behind a real solution, HB 311.
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1. In 2011, Illinois spent roughly $15 billion on Medicaid reimbursements to providers. The costs are split 50 – 50 by the state and Federal government.

2. Yount, Benjamin.  July 7, 2011.  Quinn’s Medicaid reduction means 5-month payment delay, Illinois Statehouse News at: http://illinois.statehousenewsonline.com/6561/quinns-medicaid-reduction-means-5-month-payment-delay/

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