March 9, 2015

Rauner’s Budget is Bad Medicine for State’s Health Services

Bruce V. Rauner, governor-elect of Illinois, waves to the audience during his introduction at his inauguration ceremony in Springfield, Ill., Jan. 12, 2015. As Illinois' governor, Rauner will serve as the commander in chief for the Soldiers and Airmen of the Illinois National Guard while they are not under federal activation. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Lealan Buehrer/Released) Courtesy of Wikipedia

The much-anticipated “turnaround budget” from Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner feels more like a “look back,” parading out failed ideas from past years. Rauner says this budget “preserves services to the state’s most vulnerable residents”—but a quick review suggests this is far from true. Instead, we see a budget that:

• Further decimates a fragile community mental health system
• Reduces access to lifesaving drugs for people living with HIV and prevention services for those at risk of HIV
• De-funds critical substance-abuse treatments
• Drastically reduces cost-effective breast and cervical cancer screening services
• Makes it harder, and in some cases impossible, for people with disabilities and seniors to get support to live at home
• Reduces funding for evidence-based tobacco prevention and cessation services
• Eliminates Medicaid benefits for preventive health services, including adult dental care
• Eliminates health insurance for workers with disabilities, coverage unavailable in the private marketplace
• Slashes funding for hospitals serving Medicaid populations
• Eliminates funding for care coordination, originally designed to contain costs
• Secures Illinois’ position near the bottom of states for per-enrollee Medicaid funding

It’s ironic the governor calls these cuts “tough medicine,” when the proposed budget would deny any medicine and critical health care services to so many. We’ve been down this road before, and here’s what we learned:

• Cuts of $113 million to mental health and addiction treatment services in fiscal years 2009-11 increased state costs by more than $18 million due to increased emergency room visits, hospitalizations and nursing home placements.
• Elimination of Medicaid coverage for adult dental services in 2012 caused spikes in emergency department visits for dental problems. In-patient ER treatment for dental problems averaged $6,498, nearly 10 times the cost of preventive care delivered in a dentist’s office.
• Disinvesting in HIV prevention will lead to new infections, for which the Centers for Disease Control estimates lifetime treatment costs of $379,668 per case.
• For every dollar Illinois spends on providing tobacco cessation treatments, it has on average saved $1.29. Cutting funding for smoking cessation services will increase costs by up to $32.3 million annually in health care expenditures and workplace productivity losses.

As proposed, the Rauner budget is not only bad for our health, but it’s bad for businesses, too, likely resulting in decreased productivity, loss of jobs and economic activity, and greater health care costs for employers. Some examples:

• The proposed child care “intake freeze” and increase in parent co-pays will lead to increased absenteeism as employees will take time off to care for children. Such absenteeism already is costing American businesses nearly $3 billion annually.
• Planned cuts to Illinois hospitals are expected to result not only in the loss of more than 12,500 jobs but $1.7 billion in economic activity.
• Cuts in funding for health care services, such as cancer screening, most certainly will increase the health care costs of Illinois businesses. One study of major employers found that patients with cancer cost five times as much to insure as patients without cancer ($16,000 versus $3,000 annually).

We urge the governor to listen to the critics of this budget and learn from Illinois’ past experiences. We stand prepared to support him on this learning curve.

Barbara Otto
Chief Executive Officer
Health & Disability Advocates

Opinion in Crain’s Chicago Business


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