Lawmakers set to tackle some unfinished business during 'lame duck' session
SPRINGFIELD- It's back to work in Springfield as the lame-duck session of the Illinois state legislature opens today. The lawmakers have to deal with issues including pension reform, gambling, and the expansion of Medicaid coverage for tens of thousands of low-income Illinoisans who now are uninsured.
Paula Corrigan-Halpern, policy advocacy director for Voices for Illinois Children, expects the Medicaid expansion to pass, although she's not sure exactly when.
"There are some big issues, and implementation of the Affordable Care Act really is most likely one of those issues."
The Affordable Care Act sends millions of federal dollars to the states to expand Medicaid to cover those who fall below 138 percent of the poverty level. That would provide health care to many people who work but don't get benefits, plus veterans and others who've fallen through holes in the safety net. Federal dollars pay for 100 percent of the expansion for three years, and 90 percent after that.
The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law says expanding Medicaid will create jobs and help stabilize the state budget. Corrigan-Halpern believes it would also stabilize Illinois families.
"Illinois has done very, very well in terms of covering children. This allows adults 21 to 64 to get affordable health care coverage."
And she says expanded coverage creates good health habits.
"There is research that says that when parents have health care coverage, children go to the doctor more often."
That's how the experts say problems are detected earlier, people learn about how to stay healthy, and overall costs go down. If the legislature approves the Medicaid Expansion, by 2016 a half-million more low-income Illinoisans will receive health care coverage.