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Critics Blast Rauner's Proposed Medicaid Cuts

By Chuck Sudo in News on Feb 19, 2015 4:20PM

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Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget address Wednesday was met with harsh criticism for its deep cuts and the “shared pain” Rauner said was necessary. (Most, if not all of that pain borne on the backs of the poor and dwindling middle class.) Among the proposed cuts: $1.5 billion in Medicaid funding.

Rauner’s administration, as the governor has done in his continued assaults on public sector unions, telegraphed during his gubernatorial campaign. During a meeting with the Tribune editorial board, Candidate Rauner was asked about Medicaid’s expansion in Illinois and whether federal funding would make up for the added expense. Here’s what Rauner told the Trib.

"That's going to end in a couple of years and when that ends, we're going to look at each other and go, "Oh my goodness. What happens now?'" Rauner said at the time. "And we could blow a hole in our budget that could maybe dwarf our pension problem. So we got to get on it now, be proactive. I don't know today what can be rolled back and what can be modified."

Rauner’s proposed cuts would end or reduce funding to “adult dental care, podiatry, renal dialysis and hemophilia and funding of some mental health rehabilitation facilities.” The Illinois Hospital Association adds that state hospitals could lose $735 million in funding. Legislators are split among party lines as to whether the cuts are necessary. Illinois Senate President John Cullerton said lawmakers already made all the budget cuts they could in 2012 with the Smart Act, which was later rolled back.

"We found, for example, that if you cut people's dental services and then they don't go to a dentist, they end up going to an emergency room and it costs us more money," Cullerton said. "So we went back and examined that and made a change."

State rep. Greg Harris added Rauner’s proposed cuts will wind up costing patients and the health care system more money in the long run. Republicans like state Sen. Dale Righter had Rauner’s back.

"The simple fact is that we can't afford to pay for those services. We couldn't pay for them at the time we repealed the services, we couldn't afford them when they were added back, we can't afford them now."

Rauner also proposes money can be saved through aggressive screenings to determine who is eligible for Medicaid and who is trying to rig the system in their favor, which Barbara Otto of Health & Disability Advocates called “an old trick by the governor.”