COOK COUNTY - Starting January 1, Cook County will be one of the nation's first counties to immerse itself in Obamacare after the General Assembly agreed earlier this year to request a special federal advance. The desired waiver would help to bail out Illinois' most populated county budget overwhelmed with health care costs.
The feds agreed to kick Cook County in to the Obamacare system ahead of the rest of the nation to pay for adults 18 through 65 not covered by Family Care or Medicaid that are childless, not handicapped, not making more than 133 percent over the poverty level or not covered by their employers' plan. Cook County suggests there's nearly 100,000 that fit that description living in their jurisdiction. They hope the federal government stepping in will save half of the county's bill for providing health care for the uninsured.
The waiver on the program's application explains how CountyCare will work:
The State of Illinois and Cook County Health & Hospitals System will be operating a new Medicaid program for uninsured adults in Cook County calledCountyCare. This is a Medicaid programthrough the Affordable Care Act (Healthcare Reform). CountyCare will provide coverage for tens of thousands of currently uninsured patients, as CCHHS transforms into a patient-centered continuum of care. This transformation is changing the way that patients enter CCHHS, as they will be assigned intelligently (based on risk, complexity and need) to patient-centered medical homes instead of relying on the
emergency department for basic services while waiting for new appointment availability.
So, even though 26 other states are resisting Obamacare by filing exemption appeals, Cook County has jumped into the heated battle, assuming the federal government will bail out an overspending county budget.
Last year, when the issue was being debated in the Illinois legislature, questions were raised about CountyCare, and how it would effect businesses and the self-employed.
What if the Supreme Court finds it unconstitutional? Would that lead to the demise of the law and leave the cost of this expanded Cook County program on the backs of county taxpayers?
Also, would the egregious Obamacare requirement usurping religious freedom be applied immediately with this waiver? Catholics and evangelicals are upset about the law’s requirement that church-affiliated groups provide insurance coverage for birth control, even though it blatantly collides with religious doctrine. Will this transition into government-directed health care sweep away fundamental constitutional rights to exercise religion?
In government, moving quickly to solve a short-term problem may provide a false impression that things are fixed, when often bigger problems are brewing. That may be the case with Cook County and this oh-so-easy Affordable Health Care Act fix.
CountyCare will launch in January, and still these questions and concerns remain unanswered.