Illinois General Assembly

States across the American nation are investigating the possibility of socialized medical services designed to make certain that their citizens have medical coverage. In Massachusetts, the legislative solution to an uninsured populace was a state law requiring all adults to purchase personal health insurance by the end of the year.

In California, the legislative debate about expanding state run healthcare continues. And in Illinois, the debate about state financing for health care contributed to the longest session ever of the Illinois General Assembly.  When the General Assembly finally presented a budget to Governor Rod Blagojevich on August 10, 2007, the governor promised to use his veto powers to cut pork from the budget and to use the money to fund additional health care for Illinois children.

The problem of healthcare in the United States is a grand one. There can be no mistaking the writing on the wall: the United States is moving toward a socialized healthcare system and many American citizens are already there.

An estimated 42 million Americans are on Medicare, the federally-funded health care program for the elderly and handicapped.(Medicare 2005)  another 200 million Americans receive health care through  Medicaid, the healthcare program jointly funded by states and the federal government for low income Americans.

(Cauchon 2005) By simple math, that means that nearly half of all Americans are already covered by some sort of single-payer, government run healthcare system. And the short answer is that it with half of American on some sort of subsidized healthcare, the cost of healthcare is bankrupting American governments. This paper will focus specifically on the damage done to the Illinois’ state budget by its attempts at increasing health care coverage.

Add into that numbers from the Census Bureau that in 2004, nearly 45 million Americans had no health insurance at all and you have a very ugly picture and an easy explanation for the move toward socialized medical care.(Griggs 2004) Only one-third of the country actually has insurance that is not government sponsored.

The remaining two third either have state sponsored healthcare or none at all. These numbers don’t even include recent initiatives in California and Illinois to make sure that all children have access to affordable healthcare.  With all these people already receiving some form socialized healthcare, it seems likely that the country’s effort to reform healthcare will turn to a known entity

In 2006, the cost of health care insurance to the state of Illinois was phenomenal. The state of Illinois delayed payments to Medicaid providers for up to 6 months in an attempt to balance the state’s budget. The state’s overall finances became a problem. Illinois could no longer pay its bills on time and the state had to investigate new methods of finance to cover state expenses, not the least of which was healthcare costs.

The state faces a choice each year in its medical financing, knowing that some portion of healthcare costs are reimbursed by federal programs designed to encourage the states to have local healthcare for the poor. But the reimbursement rate varies and is never as large as the need.

Further complicating the healthcare financing issues in Illinois is Governor Blagojevich’s creation of a program called “All Kids”. The program is designed to subsidize private health insurance for poor and working class families so that healthcare can be affordable and available to all Illinois children.

The problem is that Blagojevich’s program placed even greater strain on the state’s budget and that meant finding a new way to finance the state budget. In his 2007 budget address, the governor called for a tax on all corporate receipts.

The tax would raise enough millions to deal with the state’s budget issues, but would have been potentially devastating to the business environment in Illinois. The General Assembly refused to follow the governor’s lead and enact the tax, but instead sent the governor a budget that does not adequately fund its expenditures.

Additionally, the budget mire cost the state more than just the numbers of the balance sheet. Illinois’ Constitution calls for the end of the General Assembly’s session in non-election years to be May 31.

In particularly contentious years, when the House and Senate are split between political affiliations or when they are a different party from the governor, the budget debate has sometimes continued until early July. In 2007, Democrats controlled the House, the Senate and the governor’s mansion, but a budget bill did not even reach the governor’s desk until August 10, 2007, and on August 17, 2007, the state was still operating without a budget.