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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 5, 2000

Ryan Blasts HHS Decision to Cut Health Care Funding in Illinois

CHICAGO -- Governor George H. Ryan today criticized the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for cutting as much as $1 billion out of Illinois' health care budget over the next five years - a move that will endanger critical health services for children, senior citizens and the poor.

Ryan urged the U.S. Congress to delay the implementation of this funding cut until lawmakers have a chance to approve a law containing a new funding mechanism that does not hurt the states or until lawmakers can persuade HHS to change the rule.

The governor added that federal officials' decision to overturn a long-standing funding mechanism for Medicaid in Illinois will have a long-term disastrous effect on 1.5 million people and 850,000 children who depend on federal funding for health care.

"I don't know how the federal government can drastically cut funding for health care services and at the same time continually talk about the need to expand health care services to poor children," Ryan said. "This decision defies logic and places thousands of families in Illinois in danger.

"The Department of Health and Human Services has turned a deaf ear to our repeated efforts to try and find common ground. We can't afford to lose between $400 million and $500 million in health care funding in a year without some very serious consequences to children, the poor and the elderly," the governor added.

The Department of Health and Human Services today ordered a five-year change in long-standing regulations and practices that allow Illinois to maximize the state's share of federal health care funds.

Over the last decade, HHS, through the Health Care Financing Administration, has granted approval 22 separate times for Illinois' use of a funding mechanism that allows the state to allocate state tax dollars for local health services in order to maximize the federal reimbursement. The result is a higher federal rate of return for Illinois.

Unlike a few other states, Illinois has always used the higher reimbursement to pay for other health care services - children's immunizations, prescription drugs for persons with disabilities and seniors' visits to doctors and dentists.

"I urge Congress to sit down with the states and craft a law with new rules that allows us to use our Medicaid reimbursement for health care. I stand ready to work cooperatively toward a solution," Ryan said. "We should not leave such a serious decision about the future of health care in Illinois to a faceless bureaucracy in Washington.

"At a time when our country is blessed with a booming economy and budget surpluses, now is not the time to undercut health care for the poor. President Clinton has made the expansion of health care for the neediest Americans a priority of his administration. Changing the Medicaid funding rules now is counter-productive to that commitment."



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