Chicago Sun-Times
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Quinn promises to sign Medicaid expansion after Senate's passage

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SPRINGFIELD-Gov. Pat Quinn vowed Tuesday to sign legislation expanding the state's health-care program for the poor and disabled after the state Senate voted to send him the prerequisite to implementing the federal Affordable Care Act in Illinois.

"I think this is incredibly important to providing health care for more than 340,000 residents across the state," said state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), the bill's chief Senate sponsor.

Despite GOP opposition and grumbling from some Democrats, the Senate voted 39-20 vote to the expansion, which is required to implement what commonly is known as Obamacare -- President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement -- in his home state.

"This bill will not only expand access to health care for the uninsured, it will also strengthen our efforts to transform Illinois' health care sector into a wellness system that focuses on the preventative services and provides better quality treatment when people do become sick," Quinn said in a prepared statement.

"This bill will improve the health of the people of Illinois and create thousands of good jobs in the health care field," he said.

Republicans complained about the expansion's $3 billion to $6 billion pricetag, while black and Latino lawmakers used the vote to vent at the governor and his Human Services secretary, Julie Hamos, whom minority senators have targeted in a likely confirmation battle.

State Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago), the lone Democratic "no" vote Tuesday despite being a co-sponsor of Steans' legislation, said the measure doesn't adequately help the state's "vulnerable people" by restoring big cuts Quinn and Hamos presided over last year to Illinois' Medicaid program.

"This bill just doesn't go far enough," said Trotter, who is an Obama supporter but ran against him for Congress in an unsuccessful 2000 bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.). "There's no reason why we have to do this today ... [when we] have to fix some of those things we unknowingly broke last year when we basically had an attack on the profoundly disabled and the sickest of the sick."

GOP critics said the expansion, which would provide care to an estimated 342,000 presently uninsured Illinoisans who don't have children, is something the cash-strapped state cannot afford, especially since the 67-percent temporary income tax hike Democrats passed is due to expire in 2015.

"What do you say you don't do this and give the people back the week's pay you took from them?" state Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine) said, referring to the tax hike that Democrats muscled through in 2011.

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