Illinois is a land of contradictions. We may have birthed Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, but we’ve been struggling to spit out an elected representative with any semblance of idealistic commitment ever since. We claim to set an example for the nation, but insist on electing dudes whose only expertise is selling favors to supporters over phone lines tapped by the FBI. Yes, we’re a land of accomplishments, but most of those accomplishments are defined by the Model Penal Code.
So, back in January, we apparently decided to change all that. Instead of waiting around with the rest of the country to see if Obamacare would pass Constitutional muster before spending a gazillion dollars implementing it, Illinois just went ahead and requested funds to do exactly that.
That month, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, HFS, drafted and sent a waiver to the federal government requesting permission to implement ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion in Cook County two years early. Shortly there after, the State-Journal Register reported that HFS was seeking a waiver under the Affordable Care Act, ObamaCare, to expand Medicaid.
Some states, depending on their political leadership, are resisting the reform law’s implementation, challenging it in court or hoping the law will be repealed after the November 2012 elections. But in Illinois — the home of President Barack Obama and where Democrats control the legislative and executive branches — state officials are working to set up a health-insurance exchange that would route the uninsured and small businesses to affordable private insurance or Medicaid…
HFS Director Julie Hamos told The State Journal-Register in July that the expansion of Medicaid, which would add an estimated 600,000 to 700,000 people to the program, would lead to more timely health care, before diseases become advanced and more costly. She said the expansion also would mean less unpaid medical costs shifted to the rates paid by the insured.
Apparently, although Illinois’ Medicaid program is struggling and in danger of going bankrupt – they just raised the tax on cigarettes by $1 a pack to “pay for it” - the HFS just decided that they should put more people into the system, in case the Affordable Care Act came to pass and they needed to route everyone there, as half of all of those covered by Obamacare would basically end up on Medicaid. Shockingly to Illinois’ Democratic officials, some people who were eligible for Medicaid had never enrolled. This “program” would correct that problem and expand the costly, currently-failing program, come hell, high water, or even the possibility that Obamacare might never be implemented.
Because why resist an opportunity to spend money on a government program?
And so, Illinois did as Illinois does: put it in a bill and passed it. Why the hell not.
But the story doesn’t end there. Apparently, what you read above and what you will read below never actually happened. No Obamacare pre-emptive measures passed! No one had their taxes raised before it was absolutely necessary! You Tea Partiers are always coming up with these crazy ideas. According to Republican Party House Leader Tom Cross, at least, who decided early on that everyone was just making this whole thing up. It was a dream that had no basis in reality whatsoever.
Obamacare in a bill? What? Where? You people are crazy.
Apparently, House Republican leader Tom Cross received a lot of angry, angry emails requesting information on the Obamacare provision in a bill that eventually passed thanks to members of his own party (we’ll get to that in a moment). He responded, above, by getting very, very angry and insisting on the radio that the bill had nothing to do with Obamacare (fast forward forward to 3:45 for the money quote) and that this was all just some hilarious conspiracy made up by Illinois conservatives for marketing purposes. Which especially hilarious because Tom Cross was hoping against hope just days before the bill passed that Obamacare would be repealed and this long national nightmare would be over without him having to worry about any inevitable Illinois decisions to implement it early.
“We remain hopeful that Obamacare will be declared unconstitutional in a month. It is a program that we cannot afford and have fought against the administration to set up some of the initial framework of the program including healthcare exchanges.”
Yep, total Tea Party conspiracy theory.
Obviously, if it didn’t contain anything having to do with Obamacare, then what, pray tell, was so objectionable about the bill that Tom Cross himself didn’t end up voting for it? Sure, the bill ultimately passed with 16 Republican votes including votes from a number of Republican party leaders, and a few suspicious votes from Republicans who were conveniently not facing re-election in the fall, thus making Illinois one of the first states to officially bow to Obama, rather than being bowed to, which is obviously a more regular occurrence, but if it was going to pass anyway, why not just give in? Actually, why spend so much damned time trying to convince Illinois residents that the bill wasn’t actually that bad when you’re secretly hoping and wishing that the Supreme Court would hear your last desperate plea for rescue?
Probably because they are.
On May 16, initial drafts of the Medicaid reform proposal, SB2840, were released and very clearly included the ObamaCare provision. Illinois Policy Institute and the tea party began contacting every Republican member of the Illinois House to discuss the ObamaCare aspect. Illinois Policy Institute sent an email the same week that included a warning about the Medicaid package: “The plan could lead to a net expansion of Illinois’ Medicaid program by implementing ObamaCare in the Chicago area nearly two years early.” Monday, May 21, SB2840 was filed, and just a few short days later, the amendment expanding Medicare to meet Obamacare’s requirements also appeared in a Senate Amendment to a House bill – apparently, they thought that might be easier to sneak through.
Despite all of this fervor, news coverage and the exceedingly intense pressure from outside groups in DC and elsewhere, urging Illinois Republicans (and, pointlessly, other legislators) to abandon the bill faster than John Edward’s first wife, they still piled on and sent this puppy through with all the pomp and circumstance that is usually attendant to things they’d like to hide.
But it was just a made up Tea Party hoax that was getting everyone riled up for no reason.
Even though it passed. With help from the very Republicans denying it’s existence.
And implemented Obamacare two years before it needed to.
And before the Supreme Court even had a chance to rule on it.
The good news is, tomorrow, the Supreme Court could render the Illinois decision totally moot, which in the case of Illinois, is nearly always a good thing, even on our best days.