Gov. Pat Quinn on Thursday signed a package of bills that will cut health care by $1.6 million and hike cigarette taxes by $1 to pay for the state's struggling Medicaid program.
Under the proposal, smokers must pay an extra dollar a pack starting June 24. Though opponents say the tax would force smokers across state lines for cheaper cigarettes, Quinn said he hopes the measure discourages people from smoking or preventing them from starting.
The increase would generate about $350 million, Quinn estimates, and would keep Medicaid from collapsing under debt. But small business owners worry an estimated loss of $16,000 in tobacco sales could force them to close.
Another suite of bills will slash into healthcare, toughening Medicare qualification standards, eliminating a discount prescription drug program for seniors, cutting back dental care for adults and slashing payment rates for doctors and hospitals.
Quinn said the cuts are necessary to prevent Medicaid from slipping deeper into debt. Quinn called the move one of the most important decisions in Springfield this year.
Still on the table, though, is legislation to rein in state pension costs. Quinn said he'll call House and Senate leaders in for a meeting to hash out the details before calling all lawmakers back to Springfield for a vote.
"While this has been a productive legislative session," Quinn said earlier this month, "our work is not done for the people of Illinois."
Medicaid cuts would go into effect July 1.