Patch Flash: Quinn Wants to Tax Smokers $1 More Per Pack
Governor proposes deep cuts to Medicaid program and medical providers.
Quinn’s plan includes a $1 per pack increase in the Illinois’ cigarette tax, extensive program cuts, and a major reduction in payments to medical providers, according to the State Journal Register.
Quinn’s plan would cut nearly $1.4 billion from Medicaid programs themselves. About 215,000 people would lose benefits entirely, including 180,000 seniors who participate in Illinois Cares Rx, a prescription drug assistance program for low-income elderly, according to the State Jounral Register.
"If we don't do this, the whole system will collapse," Quinn said, adding later, "It'll be broke. It'll be bankrupt,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
The Tribune reports that Quinn will face tough resistance to cutting health care benefits and passing a cigarette tax will be difficult. In recent years the Senate has passed a cigarette tax hike twice, but the legislation was stalled in the house.
The Illinois Hospital Association said the proposed rate reductions are too drastic, according to the State Journal Register. “The proposal is still too drastic and too rash to impose on the state’s already fragile health care system,” the IHA said in a statement.
Quinn's plan to slash about $2 billion in Medicaid spending is earning cautious praise from some experts, despite questions about whether the cuts would shift the costs of treating the poor to hospitals, according to Crain’s Chicago Business.
"I would say they've really tried to focus on services where they're going to do the least amount of harm," said Robert Kaestner, a health-care economist with the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois.
Even if half of the proposals were implemented, it would be a good start for the state, Kaestner told Crain’s.