HEADLINES : Illinois
Lawmakers skeptical of Quinn Medicaid cuts, $1 tax on cigarette packs
SPRINGFIELD - Gov. Pat Quinn challenged lawmakers Thursday to approve a $1-a-pack increase in the cigarette tax and accept major cuts in the state's health care program for the poor, but many Democrats and Republicans view the plan as more a work in progress than a final deal.
The Democratic governor has long positioned himself as a champion for the little guy, but he found himself in the position of pushing a politically unpalatable plan to "rescue" the state's vast Medicaid system or watch it "implode."
Among Quinn's suggested cuts are eliminating a discount prescription program for seniors and people with disabilities as well as removing thousands of patients from Medicaid by scaling back who is eligible. The governor also called for getting rid of dental and chiropractic care for adults and limiting what the state would cover for people with HIV and cancer.
"If we don't do this, the whole system will collapse," Quinn said, adding later, "It'll be broke. It'll be bankrupt."
Quinn will face tough resistance to cutting health care benefits that have been in place for years, and passing a cigarette tax hike will be far from a slam dunk in the General Assembly, where every seat is on the ballot in November.