Cutting Medicaid is a matter of life and death for many Illinois senior citizens, so Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, and Dr. Leon Finney, CEO of the Woodlawn Community Development Corporation, are calling for a moratorium on the proposed state cuts. Both leaders are also urging Illinois citizens to call Governor Pat Quinn’s office in protest and ask him to veto the bill that proposes to cut $1.6 billion in Medicaid, including eliminating prescription-drug assistance for 180,000 senior citizens.
“Medicaid is a vital lifeline for many seniors,” said Dr. Finney. “These cuts proposed by the Illinois General Assembly are like sentencing many senior to the death penalty.”
Rev. Jackson interviewed a number of seniors who are Medicaid beneficiaries and concluded that without the services Medicaid provides, many seniors will not be able to fill their prescriptions and some will not be able to get back and forth to essential medical treatments for serious illnesses.
“Medicaid allowed me to receive treatment for my cancer by paying costs for the treatments and transporting me to 60 radiation treatments which have kept me here with radiation burns, but I still live” said a resident of the Father Martin Farrell House located in the Woodlawn neighborhood. “I have breast cancer and I am grateful for the benefits I’ve received. These cuts would result in a loss of hope and the possibility of treatment for many others,” she continued. “I am glad to be a cancer survivor.”
The impact of these cuts will be devastating for those who are the most vulnerable and those with the greatest needs. The cuts will eliminate the Illinois Cares Rx discount drug coverage for 180,000 low-income citizens and modifications in the screening process could result in several thousand more losing Medicaid coverage. Nursing homes and hospitals stand to see payments reduced to save the state about $240 million.
Another resident of the Farrell House, Ethel Moore, indicated that she was a cancer survivor that needed Medicaid to assist her in obtaining her prescriptions. She said, “I am asking the governor to hear our plea. My medication costs $400 a month. I’m on a fixed income. I won’t be able to afford that without Medicaid.”
In addition to prescription and treatment costs, a group of seniors talked about the benefit of transportation to and from treatment facilities. “Medicaid means getting back and forth to my physical therapy,” said Leroy Brown. “I get picked up here at the Farrell House and am taken over to the Westside where there is a great facility with great nurses.”
The $1.6 billion in Medicaid cuts passed by state lawmakers has angered some key legislators and some advocates contend the legislation will undercut nursing home reforms enacted two years ago and delay improved care in the facilities. The entire state black caucus voted against the cuts to Medicaid.
Rev. Jackson is urging Governor Quinn to veto the bill passed by the General Assembly and consider alternatives in order to cover the $2.7 billion shortfall. “We cannot balance the budget on the backs of the oldest and poorest citizens. We must find alternatives to removing the lifeline from those who have sacrificed the most and deserve our support.
The Rainbow PUSH Coalition is a progressive organization devoted to protecting, defending and expanding civil rights to improve economic and educational opportunity. The organization is headquartered at 930 E. 50th St. in Chicago. To learn more, please visit http://www.rainbowpush.org or call (773) 373-3366. To arrange an interview with Rev. Jackson, please call the numbers listed above.