Gov. Quinn Signs Medicaid Cuts, Cigarette Tax Increase Laws

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According to the Chicago Sun-Times, on Thursday Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a major legislation package that will cut $1.6 billion of the state's Medicaid program and further provide funding for this program, both of which aim to close a $2.6 billion budget gap. The package also includes increasing the state tax on cigarettes by $1 per pack.

Here are some facts about the package of laws signed today, what it'll mean for Illinois residents, and what lawmakers are saying about it:

* Of the changes being made to Illinois' Medicaid, in a statement Gov. Quinn said, "one of our most important missions in Springfield this year was to save Medicaid from the brink of collapse. I applaud the members of our working group and of the General Assembly, who worked together in a bipartisan manner to tackle a grave crisis. As a result, we preserved our health-care program that millions of our most vulnerable rely upon."

* The governor had been an avid supporter throughout the General Assembly's spring session of both the cuts and for increasing the state tax on cigarettes as a revenue source for the program, which helps the elderly, the disabled, and the poor, noted Reuters.

* One of the main issues this past spring session was to prevent both Medicaid and the state pensions from tapping into more than their current cut of 39 percent of the state's general fund spending.

* Another part of the legislation package establishes the standards that hospitals must meet in order to be considered a non-profit, charity hospital and receive exemptions.

* The Associated Press reported that the Medicaid cuts will eliminate extra health benefits like chiropractic and dental care for adults as well as eliminate 25,000 working parents from qualifying.

* The cigarette tax will go into effect on June 24 and includes increasing the tax on "roll your own" cigarettes, "little cigars," and moist snuff from the current 18 percent to 36 percent of the product price.

* The cuts to the Medicaid program will now take place beginning July 1, the beginning of Illinois' fiscal year.

* House Speaker Michael Madigan also praised the legislation packaging by saying "Concerning Medicaid, we took epic action."

* Throughout the debate, Republicans backed a tax increase while Democrats supported cutting benefits to the poor as a way to save the program from falling apart.

* Furthermore, the Illinois Cares Rx program will be ended completely after years of providing close to 200,000 senior citizens with prescription drug coverage and financial assistance.

Rachel Bogart provides an in-depth look at current environmental issues and local Chicago news stories. While pursuing her master's degree in environmental science, she enjoys writing and applying her knowledge and passion to both topics to garner further public awareness.

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