The backlash continues against Gov. Pat Quinn’s recent $1.6 billion cut to Medicaid.
On Monday, which marked the 47th anniversary of the state- and federally-funded medical services program, about 100 healthcare advocates joined in a rally that included U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston), State Rep. Esther Golar (D-Chicago), and State Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago).
Speaking at Daley Plaza, the group included many disabled Illinoisans, some in wheelchairs, who voiced their anger over Quinn’s cuts. They said the cuts, which went into effect on July 1, will remove about 180,000 people from the Illinois Rx Drug program while increasing the barriers to access in-home care services.
“The program that’s most important to me is the home services program. It allows me to receive personal attendance in my home, which makes it possible for me to get out of bed in the morning, to get dressed, bathed, and get to work,” said Adam Ballard, an organizer with Access Living who lives with a disability that confines him to a wheelchair.
“If that Medicaid program wasn’t here, I probably wouldn’t have that service. I’ve tried to find a way to pay out of pocket, but I don’t make enough.”
Ballard’s was just one of dozens of similar stories heard at Monday’s rally. Though the new cuts have been signed into law, they have yet to be implemented. Still, many current Medicaid recipients fear they’ll be dropped from the programs they most need to live a normal life. Those recipients include some of Illinois’s most vulnerable citizens, including seniors, children, and people with disabilities.
Shea Ako says he will not be able to keep his severely-disabled son at home without help from the program. By caring for their son at home, the Ako family is saving the state $36,000 a month, he added.
In an attempt to close a $2.7 billion hole in the state’s health-care program, Quinn used a mix of the aforementioned cuts and a $1 cigarette tax hike. Quinn lauded the effort saying it saved “Medicaid from the brink of collapse,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
But those at Monday’s rally said that’s the wrong way to close the budget gap.
“I stood on the Senate floor and I spoke against that bill,” State Sen. Hunter said during the rally. “And I told all of my colleagues ‘Shame on you. Shame on you for trying to balance the budget on the backs of poor people.’”
Some at the rally said closing corporate tax loopholes, or creating a graduated tax structure whereby those who make more pay more would have been better solutions.
After speaking at Daley Plaza the group marched to the Healthcare and Family Services building at 401 S. Clinton Ave.
Standing outside of the doors the group sang a song, which included the lyrics “My Medicaid matters. It’s life or death for me.”