Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and other elected Democratic officials on Monday slammed the health care bill passed last week by the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, warning that if it became law, Cook County Hospital would lose millions of federal dollars and medical treatment of the poor would be jeopardized.
“What we saw last week from Republicans in the U.S. House was a shameless act of political cowardice that could have devastating, real-life consequences for real people,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said at a press conference at Stroger Hospital Monday morning. “In taking the first step to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, the president and house Republicans are endangering health care for millions of Americans.”
President Donald Trump and House Republicans celebrated when the American Health Care Act passed the House, but it is unclear what will happen to the measure in the Senate.
Preckwinkle said she was “deeply disappointed” after a phone conversation she had with Gov. Bruce Rauner where she personally asked him to publicly support keeping the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, in place. After the Trump-backed plan passed, Rauner expressed “deep concern” about its effect on Illinois.
“It’s interesting that the governor is now expressing concern” over the GOP bill, Preckwinkle said. “I only wish he would have forcefully expressed that concern prior to the vote.”
Preckwinkle said she called Rauner back when an earlier version of the House plan was unveiled. She said she urged him at that time to speak to Republican members of the Illinois congressional delegation “and tell them about how important ACA is in Cook County and to the people in Illinois.”
Rauner “declined to do so,” Preckwinkle said.
A Rauner spokeswoman took issue with that account.
“That is simply untrue,” Eleni Demertzis said of the conversation, which occurred about two months ago.
“On the contrary, President Preckwinkle thanked Governor Rauner during their phone call for urging Congress to move thoughtfully through the healthcare debate and the Governor stressed his concerns about how the Medicaid population in Illinois would be affected by the proposed changes.”
Preckwinkle said a repeal of the ACA “would be endangering health care” for more than half a million Cook County residents. Cook County Health and Hospitals System CEO Dr. Jay Shannon called the effect “devastating” and said it would flood emergency rooms with people looking for basic health care needs.
“Should the ACA be repealed, the cost of this health system alone would be at least $300 million, but perhaps as high as $800 million each year,” Shannon said.
Preckwinkle and Shannon were joined by several Democratic members of Congress who also offered criticisms of the American Health Care Act, nicknamed “Trumpcare.”
Rep. Jan Schakowsky called it an “utter disaster” that would cause nearly 760,000 Illinois residents to lose their health insurance and cost Illinois up to $40 billion in Medicaid funding over the next 10 years. About 3 million people in Illinois depend on Medicaid funding, which would be reduced under the plan backed by President Donald Trump. Those age 50 to 64 would pay thousands more in premiums, she added.
Also at the press conference were U.S. Reps. Danny K-Davis, Robin Kelly, Brad Schneider and Raja Krishnamoorthi, all Democrats.
Contributing: Lynn Sweet