In the waning days of its legislative session, Illinois took a major step toward implementing President Barack Obama's signature health care program. That Democrats, who hold solid majorities in the General Assembly, waited until this late in the session is telling. It's proof of how controversial "Obamacare" continues to be. At issue is a key component of the Affordable Care Act - extending government-backed health coverage to individuals making under $15,000 who do not have children. For the first couple of years, the federal government will reimburse Illinois completely for that cost. Or at least - that's how it's set up now. Republicans fear that Congress may change its mind.Rep. David Leitch of Peoria implored his fellow state representatives to wait.
LEITCH: "We do not need to act today. It is irresponsible to take the financial risk today."
But Democrats say Illinois and its residents are already paying. House Majority Barbara Flynn Currie says someone without health insurance winds up in the emergency room, it ends up raising insurance premiums for everyone else. But House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie says the state is already paying for people without insurance.
FLYNN CURRIE: "The issue is not cost, the issue is who's paying. This pocket. Or the other pocket. You should know that the cost of uncompensated care in emergency rooms adds about $1,000 a year to your constituents' health insurance premiums. That is not going to go away."
The proposal now heads to the state Senate, where Democrats have an even larger majority than in the House.But even some Democrats voted against it. Some are political targets and anything involving "Obamacare" is seen as controversial. There are also complaints that it does not go far enough; for instance, dental care is not included.It's expected the measure would add 500,000 people to Illinois' Medicaid rolls, though initially the cost is reimbursed by the federal government. Illinois' plan also includes changes to policies that affect nursing homes and hospitals.