Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
Governor Quinn met his self-imposed deadline for announcing Medicaid and pension reforms last week without bothering to wait for the recommendations of his advisory task forces. While his proposals include some of the ideas that were discussed by the task forces, I believe he short-circuited the discussions of the various affected parties and may have damaged negotiations.
The Governor met his $2.7 billion goal for reducing Medicaid spending through program changes, reducing payments to providers, adding a $1 per pack cigarette tax and capturing federal matching dollars.
About $1.35 billion of the spending reduction will come from service cuts and efficiencies in 56 separate areas. Provider rates, already heavily discounted, will be lowered further and thus reduce spending by $675 million. About $675 million of spending will be offset by higher revenue–$337 million from an increased tax on cigarettes which will be matched by the federal government with another $337 million.
About 215,000 people of the 2.7 million Medicaid clients would lose benefits entirely including adult dental, chiropractic, group psychotherapy, prescription drug assistance for low-income elderly, medical equipment and people living outside the state. Adult participants would also only receive one pair of eyeglasses every two years, while adult podiatry services would be limited to diabetics, and adult prescriptions would be limited to five per month.
Keep in mind, the Governor unveiled his plan while a bi-partisan Medicaid group continues to hammer out reforms. I think the legislature should wait to see what reductions the negotiations produce before accepting on the Governor’s cuts and tax increase.
Here again the Governor proposes some of the reform ideas being discussed in the legislature while omitting others that are important to long-term stabilization of the pension system.