“There are not many things that Republicans and Democrats in Illinois agree on. But there’s near universal consensus that House Republicans’ proposed Obamacare replacement would do serious harm to Chicago and the state as a whole.
The American Health Care Act, which Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan says would “repair” the nation’s health care system, would in reality handicap Illinois’. It could result in an estimated $40 billion loss to the state over the next decade, as David Gross, senior vice president of the Illinois Health & Hospital Association, testified before an Illinois House committee on March 16.
If you’ve paid attention to the bills piling up in Illinois lately, we don’t exactly have $40 billion to lose. Which is why the Illinois delegation to Washington needs to listen to everyone from Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has said he’s “very concerned” about efforts to “reform” Obamacare (but has yet to levy specific public criticisms), to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who cautioned in a recent Crain’s op-ed of the “lasting and devastating effect.” That’s not just on individuals who stand to lose coverage, or on the doctors and hospitals who treat them, but on county finances as a whole: The Cook County Health & Hospitals System weaned itself from 75 percent of its local tax support between 2009 and this year largely because of increased revenue from the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.
In Illinois, more than 1 million people gained insurance under the ACA, and, of those, 650,000 qualified under a Medicaid expansion that House Republicans appear keen to let bleed. Estimates from the Congressional Budget Office project that the ranks of the uninsured would double by 2026, which would mean a step back into the time warp of too many people delaying treatment and then landing in emergency rooms after their problems are critical. For taxpayers, it’s much cheaper to keep tabs on a diabetic than it is to pay for kidney dialysis or limb amputations—two very real outcomes when the disease goes untreated.
The state’s economy would take a hit, too. Under the ACA, billions more flowed into Illinois from the federal government—money that went to hospitals, clinics and pharmacies to treat the previously uninsured. They added jobs. They also reduced charity care (a not insignificant point in a state where 40 percent of hospitals operate in the red or barely break even). Ryancare would cut that flow to a trickle when we already rank near the bottom in how much our state gets from D.C. to support our 3.2 million Medicaid recipients.
In Illinois, a “donor state” that pays more in federal taxes than it gets in return, better health outcomes are one place we’ve made progress. We urge Rauner to speak with a megaphone and, like John Kasich of Ohio and Rick Snyder of Michigan, levy pointed, public criticism about what won’t work for our state. And we urge every member of our D.C. delegation to recognize that this bill is bad for our state and send it to triage.