ObamaCare implementation is tough going, even in the president's old stomping ground: Springfield, Ill. The Illinois House, which is dominated by Democrats, passed the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, but only by a whisker and after heavy lobbying of undecided Democrats.
Democratic leaders were so worried about the vote that they had to bring in Dick Durbin, the U.S. senator from the Land of Lincoln, to do some last-minute cajoling. The Democratic sponsor, state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz. labeled the bill "the cornerstone of our president's agenda" and boasted that it will provide Medicaid coverage for 500,000 poor Illinois residents.
The measure eventually passed, 63-55. Every Republican voted "no"—an astounding result given the number of liberal Republicans in Springfield. Even more amazing, eight Democrats joined them in voting against the president's signature "achievement."
A major Republican argument was the poor quality of current Medicaid care. Why expand a bad system? The cost of the bill was also a factor because the state's share of covering these new recipients rises over time. The state already can't pay its bills. One observer in the gallery, Kristina Rasmussen of the Illinois Policy Institute, says, "the Democrats looked stricken after the vote even though they won."
The bill might not have passed at all were it not for business support. The Illinois Chamber of Commerce, the Chicagoland Chamber and the retail lobby all endorsed the legislation, arguing that it would bring about $10 billion into the state from Washington. Hospital interests that have a big voice with state and local chambers expect to collect a big share of that largess.
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn will sign the measure in the days ahead, but don't expect a grandiose signing ceremony. Few Illinois Democrats are crowing about this "victory" as ObamaCare grows less popular by the day.