During a visit to a Granite City hospital on Friday, Senator Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, said if it passed, the Senate Republican health care repeal bill would have devastating results for the metro-east and for all of Illinois.
Last week, Senate Republicans postponed a vote on their repeal bill due to opposition from all sides. At the Gateway Regional Medical Center, as part of his tour of Illinois’ hospitals, Durbin emphasized the need for bipartisan cooperation in order to make changes to the ACA, rather than trying to dismantle it entirely.
“Let’s take devastating cuts to Medicaid off the table, tax breaks for the wealthiest corporations and richest Americans off the table, and I will gladly pull up a chair and work to improve health care for all Americans,” Durbin said, adding that he was encouraged to hear that Republican Senator Mitch McConnell said he would be willing to sit down with Democrats to work on changes to Medicaid.
Repealing the Affordable Care Act would destroy Medicaid services and leave millions uninsured across the state, Durbin said. While he said the ACA isn’t perfect and needs changes, it would cause irreparable harm if the federal government repealed the act entirely. One of the biggest blows would come from cutting funds to Medicaid, including ending Illinois’ Medicaid expansion in 2021.
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Medicaid does many things in the state, Durbin said, such as paying for 50 percent of Illinois births, providing care for people with disabilities and funding school districts, especially special education students.
“But the largest expense for traditional Medicaid is for your mom, your grandmother, your dad, and your grandfather,” Durbin said. “When they’re put in nursing homes, two out of three rely on Medicaid to pay for medical bills.”
Durbin said medical professionals are also worried over the consequences of potential cuts to Medicaid.
Larry McCulley, CEO of the Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation, said this could not only directly impact people requiring medical care, but could also cost the state jobs, tax money and a strong economy.
McCulley said the foundation is able to provide a safety net to individuals so they are always able to have medical care, and without that access to health care, people would have trouble finding and holding jobs. The working poor, unemployed people and senior men and women are most at risk if the ACA is repealed, McCulley said, and they would be left on their own.
Joining Durbin and health care professionals was another special guest, one who knows first-hand the benefits of the Medicaid.
Missy Kichline, of Alton, spoke at the event with her 26-year-old daughter, Sam, who has Down syndrome. Kichline said Medicaid has allowed Sam to have an independent and full life, including volunteering at Senior Services Plus and attending Lewis and Clark Community College. When Sam had a brain bleed and had to spend seven days in the neurological intensive care unit, Kichline said it was through Medicaid that they were able to afford her medical bills.
“If cuts to Medicaid and caps to Medicaid become a reality, it could mean Sam would lose her long-term support and services, as well as her home,” Kichline said.
Along with impacting people with disabilities, cuts to Medicaid would hurt people in need of substance abuse treatments, especially considering Illinois’ opioid and heroin crisis, Durbin said.
Having access to health care for one and one’s family should be a priority and right in the United States, Durbin said, saying he learned from personal experience how important this is.
“If you have ever in your life been the father of a new baby with a serious medical issue, and you had no insurance, you will never forget it,” Durbin said. “I know because I’ve been there.”
Durbin also mentioned the passage of Illinois’ first budget in two years, saying they had 24 hours of celebration, and now they needed to “get over it.”
“Let’s roll up our sleeves on a bipartisan basis and get this state moving again,” Durbin said.