Illinois Democrats in Congress ask Rauner to speak up on health care overhaul

Congressional Democrats from Illinois want Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner to speak out more forcefully in the national debate over repealing the Affordable Care Act.

In a letter to the governor Tuesday, the lawmakers said they had "serious concerns" about what they called Rauner's "lack of vocal opposition" to a health care overhaul passed by the House last month. The two U.S. senators and 11 Democratic members of the House warned the measure would cause more than 1 million Illinoisans to lose insurance coverage.

Illinois Republicans in the House voted for the plan, but GOP senators are crafting a separate bill to repeal and replace the health care law commonly known as Obamacare, with an uncertain timeline and prospects for approval.

Under the House-approved measure, Illinois is projected to lose $40 billion over the next decade for Medicaid, which helps pay for health care for the poor and disabled, the Democratic lawmakers wrote. The impact translates to $8.4 billion in lost economic activity in the state every year, resulting in a loss of up to 60,000 jobs, they said.

The projections come from the Illinois Health and Hospital Association, which opposes the House bill and represents about 200 hospitals and health systems in the state.

"We believe it is incumbent upon state leaders, particularly governors, to weigh in and speak up when massive federal changes are being proposed that would likely pose serious and immediate health and economic dangers to residents of their state," the Democrats wrote Rauner. "You still have a chance."

Rauner has spoken out before. When the House legislation passed, Rauner in a statement expressed concern about its impact on the 650,000 Illinoisans who gained coverage through Medicaid expansion under the ACA. He also singled out for concern the 350,000 people in the individual insurance market "dealing with skyrocketing premiums and fewer choices."

"We will continue to voice our concerns as the law moves to the Senate," he said last month.

Several Republican governors, led by Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, reportedly are working together to draft an overhaul of the health care law commonly known as Obamacare. Kasich aides did not respond to Tribune questions about whether Rauner was part of the governors' group.

Rauner spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis on Tuesday declined to say specifically what the governor had done to voice concerns as the ACA overhaul is considered in the Senate and whether he had joined the Republican governors' joint effort.

"We will continue to stay closely engaged on the issue, particularly as new Senate legislation is developing," she said in a statement.

The letter said the state's two U.S. senators, Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, wrote Rauner in January and March asking for his "concrete recommendations" for how to improve health care in Illinois but did not receive a response.

The House Democrats sent a similar letter to Rauner in February and likewise did not hear back, the letter said. The Democrats are Reps. Cheri Bustos, Danny Davis, Bill Foster, Luis Gutierrez, Robin Kelly, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Dan Lipinski, Jan Schakowsky, Brad Schneider, Mike Quigley and Bobby Rush.

Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said McConnell has not announced a timeline for a Senate vote and "conversations are ongoing."

kskiba@tribpub.com

Twitter @KatherineSkiba

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