This Monday, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill that will add adult dental care and podiatric care to Medicaid coverage, among other changes. These services were eliminated in 2012 as part of state budget cuts; however, advocates say that paying for preventatives services ultimately saves money by reducing the number of patients who end up in emergency rooms. “This legislation is a critical step forward as we continue to reform our Medicaid system,” said Quinn.
Adding the coverage will, however, add cost to the budget in the short run, and the bill was made possible because Illinois will be receiving $2.4 billion from the federal government, $2 billion of which will be coming from hospital assessment distributions.
Another $400 million is expected as part of federal money for hospitals serving new Medicaid recipients that have been added to the system thanks to the Affordable Care Act, though this is still pending federal approval. Out of the three million state residents currently on Medicaid, about 350,000 became eligible thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
“This is $2.4 billion dollars worth of money that will come into our healthcare system that the governor has found a way to do without raising any kind of Illinois taxes,” assured State Rep. Greg Harris, who was co-sponsoring the bill. The bill will also give more money to both Illinois’s network of safety net hospitals, as well as nursing homes.
“We want to make sure that we can prevent bad things whenever possible so people are not having to pay enormous amounts of money to deal with life threatening diseases and chronic ailments that we could have dealt with earlier,” Quinn said, saying that the ultimate goal is to have an integrated system with a focus on wellness. When dental problems are left untreated for long lengths of time, they can quickly snowball into dangerous and costly problems. Approximately 74% of people, for example, have at least one type of periodontal disease which, if left untreated, can cause sores and even tooth loss.