In a recent column, Rep. Brian Stewart defended his nay votes on expanding Medicaid in Illinois and requiring a state threshold for paying teachers. But he doesn’t always tell “the rest of the story.”
The Institute for Illinois Financial Responsibility says that “until the beginning of 2017, the expansion did not add to the State of Illinois’ immense budgetary pressures,” because the federal government paid 100 percent of the cost for newly eligible Medicaid recipients through 2016 (Stewart’s vote was 2014). “As a result, the Medicaid expansion has brought in billions of dollars in new federal funds for hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and other healthcare providers at no cost to the state.”
We don’t understand Stewart’s statement that the expansion cost Illinois families $9.2 billion.
Stewart doesn’t point out that Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act has allowed several million more Illinoisans access to healthcare.
ACA Medicaid expansion allowed Cook County’s health system to significantly improve its finances. Many adults who had been treated free of charge were covered by Medicaid, “leading to a dramatic reduction in the cost of uncompensated care.” Detainees at Cook County Jail will also have access to health care when they are released.
Stewart says he’s concerned about eligibility. But Medicaid fraud, like voter fraud, is vastly exaggerated. According to Pew research, people who receive benefits often have as little as 10 days to respond when asked to prove eligibility. Since welfare recipients move often, many miss the request and their benefits are cancelled. In Illinois, many did not respond at first and re-enrolled after being removed from the rolls.
Stewart defends his nay vote on SB4892, which would establish a minimum teacher salary throughout the state. However, he doesn’t say what that minimum salary was. It was $32,076 for the 2019-20 school year, increased each year to $40,000 for the 2022-23 school year, hardly an excessive salary for someone with a four-year college degree.
Illinois, like many states, has a teacher shortage. Stewart, who worries about people leaving the state, might worry about more teachers leaving and the resulting lack of a good education for our children, whose families may also leave.
Property taxes should not be raised to pay for this. As we’ve said before, Illinois ranks 50th, dead last, in state funding for education. Is this a distinction that will make people with families want to move here?
Stewart claims, “The Chicago machine was hoping Illinois families would blame school board members for the tax hikes.”
We’re not sure what “the Chicago machine” has to do with it, or why they would want to blame school board members. Chicago teachers already fulfill the salary threshold. And the bill was passed by the entire General Assembly; it was vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner.
We appreciate that Stewart has received a 100 percent environmental scorecard from the Illinois Environmental Council, as did many other representatives. We do wish he would fight for funding for our state parks. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has seen 50 percent of its funding lost in the last 10 years, and there are 1,400 fewer employees.
Stewart does not mention his record on civil rights. He received a lifetime score of 28 percent from Citizen Action Illinois, the state’s largest public service organization. Readers can go to Vote Smart and write in his name to see ratings and votes.
Stewart wants to “restore confidence in Illinois.” But a state with poor schools and uninsured people is not a state to inspire confidence. Our problems cannot be solved by underfunding schools and parks, underpaying teachers and other workers, and denying healthcare to the poor.
Chuck and Pat Wemstrom live in rural Mount Carroll. Reach them at email@example.com
Columns,Region: Northern,Feeds,City: Freeport,Region: Rockford,Opinion
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October 11, 2018 at 05:01PM