Children's Advocacy Group Calls For Increased State Funding

Mar 6, 2014

 Low-income children in Illinois are getting better healthcare coverage. But a new study says racial and socioeconomic disparities still exist. Voices for Illinois Children, the advocacy group behind the research, says its number one obstacle is state funding.

The group cites the expansion of Medicaid — the state's health program for low-income individuals — as having the single biggest impact on the well-being of kids in poverty.

Republicans (and some Democrats) in the General Assembly say Medicaid spending is unsustainable, and needs to be rolled back.

But Representative Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) says those repeated calls to 'scrub' the Medicaid rolls are smoke in mirrors.

She says efforts to kick people off the program as soon as they become ineligible ends up hurting people whose income hovers around the minimum threshold.

"Really, it's an added burden we're putting on lower-income families," she said. "I don't think it's a big money saver, because I think the people who are the rolls who shouldn't be, aren't using it."

Illinois is in the process of scrubbing the Medicaid rolls. Gabel says many of the people who've been removed from the program lived out-of-state, and don't use medical services in Illinois, anyway.

She says the best way to find more revenue for healthcare programs is to change Illinois income tax structure, to one that taxes people in higher income levels at a higher rate.

Emily Miller, the organization's policy advocacy director, agrees with Gabel. She says threats to cut back on Medicaid to balance the state's checkbook will hurt low-income children.

"Our families and communities cannot afford the level of cuts that would be required to put this state into the black," she said.. It's really important that lawmakers understand and hear this call ... Our communities cannot survive with the cuts that have been discussed."