Every now and then you find out whether leaders and legislators are truly for reform or whether they simply use the concept to advance electoral imperatives. The upcoming votes on Medicaid, pensions and the state budget will be illuminating.
Things are moving quickly in Springfield, and the most urgent issue on deck is Medicaid. Leadership of both parties promised real reform. However, that's not what is being delivered. We're about to be asked to swallow an incomplete reform plan coupled with a tax hike and a disastrous Medicaid rate cut that will hurt the poorest among us. It is not yet clear if we can count on Republican leadership to take a strong and principled stand against this disastrous deal.
Read on. I need your help in making a few phone calls if we're to fight back and win.
You may recall that back in February, Gov. Quinn told lawmakers that the rendezvous with reality had arrived. He informed them that they must "reduce expenditures" in the Medicaid program by $2.7 billion this year. Soon thereafter, lawmakers in the House committed to reducing "the accrual of Medicaid obligations" by $2.7 billion. A legislative working group came up with reductions, estimated in the range of $1.2 to $1.5 billion, but Gov. Quinn's administration and Democrats balked at identifying additional savings.
Now we know why. As details of the Medicaid plan are released, it is becoming clear that it will fail to find the full cuts and instead rely on tax hikes, temporary solutions and budget gimmicks.
We've reviewed a recent draft of the bill and, barring significant improvements to the circulating versions of the legislation, find cause not just for concern but for alarm:
- The plan includes additional tax hikes to raise nearly $700 million in new revenue. Tax hikes are not spending cuts.
- The plan could lead to a net expansion of Illinois' Medicaid program by implementing ObamaCare in the Chicago area nearly two years early.
- The plan lacks many specific details, leaving it to the governor's office to make changes.
- The plan includes unspecified cuts to Medicaid providers, meaning that the total savings are uncertain.
- The plan includes new insurance mandates on Illinois consumers and on small businesses offering private insurance to their employees.
- The plan also prohibits the state from seeking any new waivers from burdensome federal regulations until 2013.
None of these proposals fix the core problems and, together, they put both taxpayers and Medicaid recipients at risk. We've called for fundamental changes to the Medicaid program that reduce spending and improve access to care for the most vulnerable populations. Last Thursday, the Institute's Jonathan Ingram proposed alternatives to the Medicaid working group to help them reach $2.7 billion without new taxes or steep rate cuts to providers. Read more about these common-sense ideas here.
We continue to work with lawmakers committed to reform and fiscal solvency, but this is not the time to accept half-measures and liberal policy prerogatives. Worse, it destroys the credibility of leaders who talk about economic freedom only to vote in favor of more heavy-handed government.
What can you do? You can call your Illinois state representative and let them know that Illinois needs real Medicaid reform, not higher taxes. Call the statehouse switchboard at (217) 782-2000 to be connected. Look up your legislator here. They could vote as early as Monday or Tuesday.
Also call House Minority Leader Tom Cross. He needs to know that you value and expect principled leadership and rigorous policy reform. Leader Cross and other members hear daily from the entrenched interest groups and they are being persuaded. Your time to call is now. His statehouse number is (217) 782-1331. If the line is busy, call his district office at (815) 254-0000.
We have the next few days to turn this around and notch a win for real change. Can we count on you to pick up the phone?
Illinois Policy Institute
P.S. We need your help. Call House Minority Leader Tom Cross. Tell him that you expect his principled leadership on this issue. Tell him to say no to the proposals that put taxpayers and Medicaid recipients at risk. His number is (217) 782-1331 or (815)