Doctors, GOP don't like Governor's proposed Medicaid cuts

Apr 20, 2012

Republican lawmakers have criticized parts of Gov. Pat Quinn's plan to close a $2.7 billion gap in Illinois' Medicaid program, which includes a $1 per pack increase in Illinois’ cigarette tax. 

And doctors say Quinn's proposed cuts to reimbursement rates for medical services would be devastating.  Laura Shea, president of the Sangamon County Medical Society, says doctors already get less money from the state for treating public aid patients than they do for patients with private insurance.

"There are doctors who don't take public aid; it's very common," Shea said, "or they limit how many they take. So it's hard for a patient on public aid to get the care that they need."

She says cutting reimbursements further could push more doctors to limit or turn away patients on public aid.

The governor has maintained that the state's program to provide health care for the poor must be stabilized to keep from spiraling out of control.  On Thursday he proposed extensive cuts, including an end to the prescription drug discount for seniors in addition to a major reduction in payments to medical providers and the increase in Illinois’ cigarette tax.

The governor says these moves are necessary to prevent the Medicaid program from collapsing down the road.

"It's designed to make sure that we maintain the system for the most vulnerable people in our society who need healthcare," he said, "but at the same time understanding that if we don't rescue the system today it will get worse day after day."

But that's not what has Republicans upset. They're calling the other aspects of Quinn's plan dead on arrival ... like the cigarette tax hike and cutting the rate state pays doctors.

Despite Quinn's calls for the General Assembly to pass his package, legislators are working on a plan of their own.

Amandy Vinicky, Statehouse Bureau Chief for Illinois Public Radio, contributed to this report.