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September 23, 2003

Illinois leads nation in health care for the poor under Gov. Blagojevich
National study cites Illinois for expanding Medicaid while other states cut health coverage

CHICAGO ‑ Despite the state’s historic fiscal crisis, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich bucked the national trend by delivering expanded health coverage to low income children and families in Illinois, according to a major national study.


The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured report released in Washington Monday singles out Illinois’ Medicaid program as one of only three in the nation to significantly expand health coverage this year. The other programs are in Missouri and the District of Columbia.


“No matter how bad our budget problems get, we cannot abandon our duty to help the weakest members of our society: children, parents struggling to make ends meet and seniors who should not have to choose between buying groceries or high‑priced prescription drugs,” Blagojevich said. “Health care will always be a priority in my administration.”


Setting health care at the top of his agenda, Blagojevich crafted a budget for the state’s Medicaid agency, the Illinois Department of Public Aid, that expands the KidCare and FamilyCare programs to cover 20,000 more children and 65,000 more parents this year. The budget also expands the SeniorCare prescription drug benefit to include 50,000 more elderly Illinoisans, but federal regulators have not yet approved that expansion.


“Gov. Blagojevich has made it clear that we are not going to balance our budget on the backs of our must vulnerable citizens,” said Director of Public Aid Barry S. Maram.


The 90‑page Kaiser Commission report on Medicaid in all 50 states can be viewed at:  <http://www.kff.org/content/2003/4137>.


The report states that despite Illinois’ budget problems, “Gov. Blagojevich proposed a state budget for FY 2004 that increased funding for education and continued to build on previous health care expansions.”


A total of 1.8 million Illinois residents ‑ including one million children and 350,000 elderly and disabled people ‑ receive health coverage under the state’s Medicaid program.


In July, Gov. Blagojevich signed legislation that expands eligibility of KidCare, the children’s health insurance program, from 185 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) to 200 percent.


The related FamilyCare program, for parents of KidCare children, is being expanded over three years from 49 percent of FPL to 185 percent, delivering health insurance to an additional 300,000 parents. In the first year, as of July 1, the eligibility level was raised to 90 percent of FPL.


The planned expansion of SeniorCare will lift the income cap for the comprehensive drug benefit from 200 percent of FPL to 250 percent.


The Governor has also created a prescription buying club to be launched next year that is open to all the state’s seniors and is expected to save members 20 percent or more on drug costs.


In addition, Blagojevich is lobbying for federal legislation that would allow the state to buy prescription drugs in Canada, which could save millions of dollars for all drug consumers.


For more information about IDPA programs, log on to <http://www.dpaillinois.com>.


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