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Welcome to the Illinois Health Matters Blog. Our blog discusses various topics around how health care reform is affecting the people of Illinois. We present a variety of different perspectives from health care experts, both from our state, and nationally. For more information please visit IllinoisHealthMatters.org.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Whose Budget Problem is Worse than Illinois?

Illinois has a budget problem.   Ironically, our state leaders all agree that one of the ways to solve this problem is to pass it along to the household budgets of some of our most vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities. How?   Eliminate Illinois Cares Rx
  
State leaders, editorials, and other opinion leaders would lead you to believe Illinois Cares Rx is some “extra” program that we can no longer afford.    What they always fail to talk about is how this “extra” program helps real people.  And, they have no good answer for what these folks are supposed to do after Illinois Cares Rx is eliminated. 
  
The typical Illinois Cares Rx enrollee is the one who always has just a little too much income to qualify for our traditional needs-based poverty programs but not enough income to afford the cost of their healthcare and other necessities.  He or she typically has a chronic health condition such as Multiple Sclerosis, or heart disease or Alzheimer’s and lives on the edge financially…carefully saving their money, trying to stay within a budget that does not have a lot of “wiggle room,” and often having to do this with little to no help from their government or anybody else.   

Illinois Cares Rx steps in to help this group so that they don’t have to make choices to skip doses of specialized medication, cancel a doctor’s appointment, pay rent late, or receive shut off threats from the utility companies.      

Here is a budget problem more difficult than the one our state leaders are facing: 

A typical Illinois Cares Rx enrollee might have $1500 per month in income from Social Security.  After premiums, co-payments and deductibles, the enrollee might be left with about $1300 per month, if they are lucky.  Illinois Cares Rx provides about $100 in benefits to the average enrollee each month.  So, we will be reducing their available income another $100 to $1200 per month if Illinois Cares Rx goes away. Now, what do we cut to make up for this?  Food?   Utilities?   Rent?   A follow up visit to the doctor?   And state leaders thought they had a tough job with the Illinois budget…

Call the AARP Illinois Hotline which will connect you with your state legislator. Contact them now and tell them to protect this vital program while budget negotiations are still happening. Call 1-888-616-3322 and tell them to “Preserve Funding for Illinois Cares Rx.”

John Coburn
Senior Policy Attorney

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