Ruling Could Prevent Expansion of Illinois Health Coverage

Published June 1, 2008

A Cook County judge has issued a temporary injunction preventing Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s (D) taxpayer-funded health care expansion from going into effect as scheduled.

The ruling, handed down on April 15 by Cook County Judge James Epstein, was at least a temporary defeat for Blagojevich, who had been pressing forward with his plan to allow 147,000 parents and caretakers to purchase subsidized health insurance through the state’s FamilyCare program.

The expansion was twice rejected by a state legislative panel, and funding for the program’s growth was deliberately omitted from the state budget to prevent Blagojevich from expanding FamilyCare. Blagojevich maintains he is within his authority as governor to open the program to more participants.

Epstein did hand a minor victory to the governor by ruling Blagojevich was within his legal bounds to expand a program to screen uninsured Illinois women for some forms of cancer, including breast and cervical, because the state legislature had allocated funds for that in the budget.

“As a result of that ruling by the judge, this makes Illinois the only state in America where every woman who is uninsured can now have access to routine mammograms and pap smears that will save their lives,” Blagojevich said after the ruling. “So in that case, I’m delighted with the judge’s decision.”

Jeff Emanuel ([email protected]) is research fellow for health care policy at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Health Care News.