SPRINGFIELD — Newly surfaced video of Republican Bruce Rauner obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times shows him telling conservative activists in Lake County last year that, as governor, he would have blocked Gov. Pat Quinn’s 2013 expansion of Medicaid.
Rauner’s words mark the first time he has publicly staked out that position after sidestepping the question of a possible rollback of the state’s Medicaid expansion during a joint appearance in March with U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and at a Chicago Tribune editorial board meeting a month earlier.
The new disclosure comes as President Barack Obama himself comes to the Chicago area Wednesday to help raise campaign cash for Gov. Pat Quinn, who enacted the 2013 expansion that was necessitated by the president’s signature health-care reform.
The video also coincides with the release Tuesday of new data by Quinn’s administration that showed 468,000 people enrolled in the expanded Medicaid program since last year, more than double original forecasts.
In the grainy, 33-second smart-phone movie, Rauner is seen responding to an audience member’s question at the Northern Illinois Patriots “Meet the Contenders” Nov. 12, 2013, meeting in Libertyville.
“If you were governor of Illinois, would you have accepted Medicaid expansion and what do you think about the other Republican governors around the country that rejected Medicaid expansion?” Rauner was asked.
“I would not have accepted the expansion,” Rauner responded then. “I’m deeply concerned: We have a massive problem in our Medicaid system in Illinois. It’s full of corruption and abuse, and we are facing a problem that will dwarf our pension problem in about four or five years with our Medicaid system. It’s out of control, it’s corrupt.”
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Asked Tuesday whether Rauner’s words accurately portray his position now on rolling back Medicaid, a campaign spokesman sounded a similar refrain against “fraud” and “abuse” within Medicaid but didn’t explicitly say if the candidate favored undoing Quinn’s expansion or keeping it in place.
“As governor, Bruce will implement reasonable reforms to ensure that Medicaid remains an effective safety-net for our state’s residents,” Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf said. “Quinn has done irreparable harm to those who need a safety net the most. Bruce will restore that.”
When the legislation authorizing the expansion passed the state Legislature in May 2013, Republicans en masse opposed the maneuver, calling it an unaffordable burden for a state whose finances have been underwater for years.
But Quinn’s campaign Tuesday jumped on the Rauner video as evidence that the governor’s GOP rival would cruelly imperil health care for everyone who signed up under Illinois’ Medicaid expansion.
“Bruce Rauner’s heartless position means that 468,000 people in Illinois would not have healthcare coverage if he were in charge,” Quinn campaign spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said.
“Just like Rauner’s other heartless proposals, like eliminating the minimum wage and slashing funding for public schools, Rauner’s plan to deny healthcare coverage to those who need it the most would hurt working families,” she said.