Governor enacts new law expanding Medicaid

Jul 23, 2013

Even as Congress looks to further roll back President Barack Obama's signature health care program, his home state is officially implementing a key part of it. IPR’S Amanda Vinicky has more on a new Illinois law expanding Medicaid.

For the first time, low-income adults without children will be eligible for Medicaid. Specifically, adults within 138-percent of the poverty level, so someone making just under $16,000.

"These are folks that are uninsured.  So they tend to get treatment, show up in emergency rooms."

State Senator Heather Steans, a Democrat from Chicago, says the E.R. isn't the appropriate place.  She says many times, the ailments patients go to the hospital for could have been prevented if they had a primary care doctor.

"So we get them enrolled and we will be enrolling them in care coordination programs where they'll be assigned to a primary care physician, at a site, someplace to go outside of the emergency rooms.  So the hospitals won’t have to provide uncompensated care, and we should be keeping people healthier."

Illinois estimates 342,000 residents will enroll within the next few years with the federal government picking up much of the tab.

Still, especially after President Obama delayed a key provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires large businesses to provide employees health insurance,  critics are skeptical the federal government will keep that promise. They fear Illinois will be stuck taking on additional costs it can't afford.