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Illinois Senate approves Medicaid expansion bill

Published: Friday, March 1, 2013 9:41 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Senate today approved an expansion of health care for 342,000 low-income residents under legislation that embraces President Barack Obama’s signature program to give medical coverage to more Americans.

The party-line vote showed all 40 Democrats favored the bill that backs Obama, a former member of the Senate, and all 19 Republicans voted against the measure. It now goes to the House.

Under the proposal, all adults ages 19 to 64 at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty line would be eligible for Medicaid—a program currently offered only to disabled adults or adults with dependent children.

Any new participants would be funded entirely by federal aid through 2017. Federal reimbursement would drop after 2017 but remain at 90 percent after 2020.

Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, called passage an “important step in taking care of our most at-risk constituents.”

“Access to quality health care is a fundamental right,” said Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in a statement, saying the federal law will “improve the health of hundreds of thousands of people across Illinois, strengthen our health care system and create thousands of good jobs in the health care field.”

Republicans expressed caution over whether the federal government will stick to the promise of funding the vast majority of these people’s benefits.

Even if that commitment comes to fruition, Illinois taxpayers will have to pony up an estimated $3 billion over the next six years, said Sen. Dave Righter, R-Mattoon.

“Our system is already overburdened, our system is already still … unaffordable,” said Righter. “This is absolutely the wrong time to add people to this program.”

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