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Editorial: GOP should back cigarette tax

Members Health Care Council Illinois use wheelchairs deliver petitions signed by opponents cuts Medicaid funding Illinois State Capitol Springfield last

Members of the the Health Care Council of Illinois use wheelchairs to deliver petitions signed by opponents of cuts in Medicaid funding to the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield last year. | Seth Perlman~AP

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Updated: July 2, 2012 9:25AM

In his bid to reform Medicaid and pensions this spring, Gov. Pat Quinn said Monday that the “end zone” was tantalizingly close. On Medicaid, as least, that doesn’t appear to be wishful thinking. We’re hoping he’s right — and that the Senate Republicans don’t force a fumble.

On Wednesday, a House committee is likely to take up a major part of a Medicaid reform package that covers $1.6 billion in cuts and rate reductions. Quinn offered up a strong initial proposal in April and this bill adds several components that improve it. Those include shielding safety-net and rural critical-access hospitals from rate cuts, lowering the overall rate cut and several ideas advanced by House and Senate Republicans, including preventing the state from pushing this year’s Medicaid bills to next year and using a private company to ensure Medicaid eligibility.

As a result of such changes, some House Republicans are willing to support another central element of the Medicaid package: a higher cigarette tax. Without it, Illinois will face even more devastating cuts to the state’s health-care safety net. Despite that, Senate Republicans remain opposed to the cigarette tax. It’s time for them to join the team backing a healthier and more humane Illinois.

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