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What health reform means for the people of Illinois

A blog by IllinoisHealthMatters.org

Monday, March 14, 2011

Why We Must Save Illinois Cares Rx

Governor Quinn's proposed budget includes the elimination of the entire Illinois Cares Rx program, which provides prescription drug assistance to low income seniors and people with disabilities.

The benefits of the Illinois Cares Rx Program to its enrollees are crucial to their health and well-being. Without this assistance, many seniors and people with disabilities on fixed incomes will not be able to afford their needed medications. They will be forced to ration their medications or make choices between paying for rent, food, or medications.  There simply is not a lot of “wiggle room” in their budgets to take on the cost of what the Illinois Cares Rx Program provides.  

For most, Illinois Cares Rx is a benefit that assists in paying the premium and initial co-pays under Medicare Part D, which can get extremely high, especially if a person is taking several medications.  For Illinois Cares Rx enrollees, this assistance has literally meant the difference between going with or without their medications.  In addition to the Part D premium, Illinois Cares Rx pays the deductible ($310 this year) and helps with the co-pays; each prescription filled costs much less with this coverage (e.g., $6.30 instead of $50).  It is an enormous savings, especially valuable for individuals with multiple health problems and multiple medications, which is common among Illinois Cares Rx consumers.

A few important things to know about Illinois Cares Rx:
  • Illinois Cares Rx serves approximately 200,000 low income older adults and people with disabilities each year to pay for necessary and costly medications.
  • Governor Quinn has proposed eliminating the entire program without seeking cost savings from other measures first.
  • The health care reform law - the Affordable Care Act (ACA) - does not fix the problem that Illinois Cares Rx addresses. The ACA only addresses the Medicare Part D donut hole by closing that gap slowly over the next several years. Low-income older adults and people with disabilities in Illinois still need help paying for premiums, co-pays and donut hole coverage in 2011 and beyond. In other words, even if the donut hole were closed this year, low income seniors and people with disabilities would STILL need Illinois Cares Rx.
The Chicago Tribune published the following story about the cuts to Illinois Cares Rx and the Circuit Breaker program and how the elimination of these programs affects an already vulnerable group of older adults and people with disabilities. The issue was also recently profiled in the StatehouseNewsOnline.com. Please contact the Governor and your state legislators. Ask them to take Illinois Cares Rx off the chopping block and consider other cost saving measures first.

John Coburn
Co-Director, Make Medicare Work Coalition

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