What does GOP health plan mean for Illinois? - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

What does GOP health plan mean for Illinois?

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WSIL -- Republicans in the U.S. House of Representative unveiled their plan to replace the Affordable Healthcare Act, or Obamacare, with lots of optimism this week. 

"This is a good day. This is what good conservative healthcare reform looks like," said Speaker Paul Ryan.

But what does it mean for Illinois?

Linda Baker with SIU's Paul Simon Public Policy Institute said the Republican plan will create more problems for the cash-strapped state.

"It will add to an already horrendous structural deficit that the state of Illinois faces," said Baker, who also served as secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services. 

Under Obamacare, 600,000 Illinoisans who did not have health insurance before are now covered through Medicaid, with the federal government picking up the tab by reimbursing the state.

Under the Republican plan, the federal government would pay no more than what it currently pays, about $4,500 per person. Even if health care costs rise, which many call inevitable, the federal government would continue to cap its spending at $4,500 per person, starting in 2020.

Baker said it would fall on Illinois, which is currently more than $11 billion behind on its own bills, to somehow make up the difference.

"I think it will certainly be a huge policy issue that the state will have to grapple with at a time when Illinois is looking at how it's going to balance its budget," said Baker.

Baker said if the state cannot come up with the money, it may have to reduce people's coverage or kick them off Medicaid altogether.

"If in fact the Affordable Healthcare Act is repealed, Illinois will really have to take a step back and really decide who they're going to cover," said Baker.

The Republican plan would provide tax credits to help people pay for their own health insurance, but critics, including some moderate Republicans, say that will not help poor people keep their health insurance because the amount they would be left to pay on their own would be too much for them to afford.

On the other hand, some conservative lawmakers and organizations are opposed to the House Republican bill because of the subsidies it provides to people to help them pay for health insurance.

"This bill is a lump of coal," said Rep. Mo Brooks, a Republican from Alabama. "They can try to make it look good and package it as good as they possibly can, but it does not change what it is. And it is the largest welfare program ever proposed by Republicans in the history of the Republican party. It's going to be disastrous for our deficit and debt long term."

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of uninsured people in Illinois fell from 1.6 million (12.7%) in 2013 to 900,000 (7.1%) in 2015. 

In neighboring Kentucky, the decrease in the number of people without insurance was even greater, falling from 616,000 (14.3%) in 2013 to 261,000 (5.0%) in 2015.

To learn more about the new plan, click here.

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