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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 3, 2006

Gov. Blagojevich urges Bush to veto bill that increases cost of health care for millions of poor, vulnerable citizens
Provisions force new medical fees, increased premiums and strict documentation

CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today urged President Bush to veto legislation that would increase the cost of health care for low-income and working families by permitting states to impose new or higher premiums and medical fees on Medicaid beneficiaries and require citizens to provide documentation of their citizenship to receive benefits.   The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 on Wednesday, February 1, with a 216-214 vote.
 
“As someone who is legally required to balance a budget every year, I understand that any budget calls for difficult decisions.  The hallmark of a good budget is making sure spending matches revenues, and still finding a way to help people – and not hurt them.  Unfortunately, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 passed this week by Congress, would result in working people losing their health insurance,” the Governor wrote a letter to President Bush he sent today.  “During your State of the Union Address, you said that ‘our government has a responsibility to provide health care for the poor and the elderly.’  Signing legislation that raises the cost of health care for working families by permitting states to impose new or higher premiums and medical fees would contradict the beliefs you expressed to the entire nation just a few days ago.”
 
Recent estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that the legislation would result in higher medical fees for 13 million people, including 4.5 million children, effectively denying health care to people who need it.  As more people lose access to medical care, the cost of covering the uninsured will increase for taxpayers and private insurance premium payers.
 
“The bill heading to your desk is penny wise and pound foolish.  Denying people access to health care doesn’t make the problem go away.  It only makes it worse,” the Governor wrote. 
Over the past three years, the Blagojevich Administration has worked to expand health care coverage for low-income, working parents and their children.  As a result of Governor Blagojevich’s expansions to the state’s health care programs, 400,000 more children and parents in Illinois have received coverage, and Illinois is now ranked as the second best state in the nation by the Kaiser Family Foundation for providing health care to children who need it first in the nation for providing health care to adults who need it.
 
Despite these gains, approximately 250,000 children in Illinois are still without health insurance. That’s why Governor Blagojevich led the nation when he introduced his landmark All Kids program that makes comprehensive health care coverage available to children, including doctor’s visits, hospital stays, prescription drugs, vision care, dental care and medical devices like eye glasses and asthma inhalers.
 
“Rather than cutting health care for working families, children and the elderly, I urge you to look towards the examples of states across the nation who are launching new programs that help people get the health care they need.  Here in Illinois, we recently passed legislation guaranteeing every child access to affordable, comprehensive health care,” wrote the Governor.
 
The text of the letter is below:
                                                                                                                       
Dear President Bush:
 
As someone who is legally required to balance a budget every year, I understand that any budget calls for difficult decisions.  The hallmark of a good budget is making sure spending matches revenues, and still finding a way to help people – and not hurt them.  Unfortunately, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 passed this week by Congress, would result in working people losing their health insurance.  And that is why I am asking you to reconsider your position, veto this bill and work with Congress to find a better approach.
 
During your State of the Union Address, you said that “our government has a responsibility to provide health care for the poor and the elderly.”  Signing legislation that raises the cost of health care for working families by permitting states to impose new or higher premiums and medical fees would contradict the beliefs you expressed to the entire nation just a few days ago. 
 
Recent estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that the legislation on its way to your desk would mean new or higher medical fees for 13 million people, including 4.5 million children.  The end result of these fees effectively means denying health care to people who need it.  When that happens, it doesn’t just cause problems for the families who no longer have health care.  Those families still get sick.  They still need medical care.  Only now, they don’t get the health care they need until a small problem has turned into a complex expensive problem that lands them in the hospital.  Once they cannot pay the hospital bill (and, as you know, unpaid medical bills are already the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States), the costs are borne by everyone with health insurance, which is a major reason why premiums are so high. 
 
Children without medical care still go to school, only now, they’re more likely to get other children sick, they have a harder time keeping up, they require more of the teacher’s attention, and that all costs us money in the long run.  In addition, more sick children mean more days parents have to take off from work, which harms employee productivity, one of factors your administration has identified as the key to a good economy.  The bill heading to your desk is penny wise and pound foolish.  Denying people access to health care doesn’t make the problem go away.  It only makes it worse. 
 
Rather than cutting health care for working families, children and the elderly, I urge you to look towards the examples of states across the nation who are launching new programs that help people get the health care they need.  Here in Illinois, we recently passed legislation guaranteeing every child access to affordable, comprehensive health care.  Our All Kids program means that 250,000 children will be able go to the doctor when they need to.  It means they’ll have access to dentists, eyeglasses, asthma inhalers, prescription drugs and everything else so many of us take for granted.  All Kids isn’t a major strain on our budget.  Seventy-five percent of the costs are paid for by the parents through affordable premiums – lower than what they would pay on the private market, but high enough to make the program affordable for the state.  The remaining 25% comes savings generated by changes to our Medicaid program that make it more efficient and cost effective.  That means we can guarantee access to health care for every child without increasing overall spending and without raising taxes or fees of any kind.  If we can do it, you can too. 
 
In fact, there’s a bill currently pending in Congress that would create a federal version of All Kids.  Sponsored by Senator Dick Durbin and Congressman Rahm Emanuel, the bill would expand the State Child Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) so that states can offer access to low-cost insurance not only to low income families, but to the millions of working and middle class families whose children need health insurance too. 
 
In addition, we have launched programs in Illinois that help senior citizens get access to lower cost prescription drugs from Europe and Canada, help small businesses pool their resources and save money on the cost of health insurance, help uninsured veterans obtain access to health insurance, help senior citizens fill in the gaps in coverage in the federal Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, and help working adults obtain access to affordable health insurance.  Illinois is one of many states that have taken new and innovative approaches to solving the health care crisis.  And while the federal government shifts more and more of the burden for providing critical human services to states, we have balanced our budget every year while implementing these health care expansions.
 
The health care crisis facing our nation can only be solved by tackling it head on.  The bill heading to your desk does anything but that.  I urge you to reconsider your position on the legislation and develop a better way. If there is anything we can do to help the federal government achieve that goal, please let us know.  Thank you for your time and consideration.
 
Sincerely,
 
Rod R. Blagojevich
Governor


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