Simon says Quinn won't cut Medicaid eligibility

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sheila Simon, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, says that if she and Gov. Pat Quinn win November’s election, they won’t cut Medicaid eligibility standards in an effort to reduce the state’s Medicaid costs.

Simon, speaking at a health care improvement conference at the Executive Mansion on Wednesday, said most of the state’s expansion of Medicaid under former Gov. Rod Blagojevich brought health insurance to children who did not have it.

“I don’t think that we want to save state dollars by targeting first uninsured kids,” Simon said in an interview.

Medicaid is the state and federal program designed to provide health insurance to the poor and their children.

Some Republicans have been critical of the health-care expansion, and some legislative candidates in both parties have vowed to roll back Medicaid eligibility requirements and put recipients into a managed care program to help close a $13 billion budget deficit.

All Kids, which went into effect in 2006 and extended health care to children in families with an income greater than 200 percent of the federal poverty level and all children of undocumented immigrants, cost the state $70 million in fiscal year 2009, according to a May report by Auditor General Bill Holland.

In 2009, All Kids had 94,525 kids enrolled.

Overall, the number of Illinoisans on Medicaid increased by 190,000 people in Illinois between December 2007 and December 2009, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, with many enrolling in the program because of the recession and job losses. Roughly 2.2 million people or nearly one out of every five Illinoisans participated in the program as of December 2009.

Simon argued that while the state spends a lot on Medicaid, it gets a lot back from the federal government in matching funds.

“When we spend a dollar on Medicaid, we’re getting more than that dollar back … from the federal government,” she said.

Patty Schuh, a spokeswoman for Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady, declined to say whether Brady would seek to tighten Medicaid eligibility requirements if elected,calling it a hypothetical question.

"There's no one that wants to hurt children," Schuh said, but she added that Brady would "take every opportunity to trim waste, fraud and abuse in state government."

Jason Plummer, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, was expected to attend the conference, but backed out minutes before he was scheduled to speak because of a scheduling conflict, according to organizers.

More pension changes possible, Simon says

Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Sheila Simon said Wednesday that if they are elected, she and Gov. Pat Quinn will seek more changes in government pension rules, including creating a two-tiered system for local government employees.

That would be similar to what will go into effect in January for new state workers, university employees, judges, legislators and teachers.

The governor would not seek to have the retirement age for police and firefighters extended until age 67 because of the physical demands of their jobs, Simon said.

“Certainly as a former Carbondale City Council member, I know the impact of required pension payments on municipalities, so this is not a new issue,” Simon said.