GOP lawmakers fought against a Democratic sponsored bill that would tie the hands of Gov. Bruce Rauner in applying for federal waivers regarding health care coverage.
HB4165, sponsored by Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), would prevent the governor or the state from applying for a federal health care waiver to reduce Affordable Care Act coverage including waivers for pre-existing conditions, insurance companies dropping specific programs and Medicaid population coverage unless authorized to do so by the General Assembly through a joint resolution.
Though Harris said the bill was an important check and balance, Rep. Peter Breen (R-Lombard) disagreed, saying it is rare that both the House and Senate vote together and noted a recent block of GOP-backed criminal penalty enhancements bills the House majority caucus killed in committee.
“It’s very easy to think of a time where the executive of the state is trying apply for a waiver, and because the legislature is playing politics says ‘we are not going to give you any permission to do the waiver, even though it makes perfect sense, because we want you to trade us something,'” Breen said.
Harris said Breen was forgetting recent history, when the two parties came together to pass the recent $3.5 billion hospital assessment program that required a 1115 waiver to be signed by the governor.
After Breen noted there was no need to change the process now, Harris asked Breen, “Why do you hate the legislature Mr. Breen? Why don’t you think we should be involved?”
Breen told Harris he loved the legislature, but he does not trust the legislature because he serves in the legislature, and added the Democrats are asking to play "Mother May I."
“This will restrict the ability of the executive to do minor things, larger things, all of which he has the full right to do, and we should allow the executive to do what he needs to do,” Breen said.
Rep. Patricia Bellock (R-Hinsdale), who worked with Harris on the hospital assessment program, said she can no longer join him for the same reasons as Breen.
“This bill limits the authority of the governor and CMS (Central Management System) to move forward on issues, so I will not support the bill at this time,” Bellock said.
Rep. Steven Andersson (R-Geneva) asked if the General Assembly was required to vote on the 1115 waiver before Rauner signed, and Harris said no, but clarified his bill only needs House and Senate approval if the governor attempts to take away health care benefits.
“If the waiver adds more benefits for health care citizens then it may be submitted directly by the governor,” Harris explained.
Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) kept his comments short and sweet.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this simply is just a mechanism where we can prevent the executive branch from doing their job from even starting the waiver process without our permission, unless of course we are expanding health care,” Wheeler said.
Like his peers, Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) said stripping Rauner of his authority is a bad move, specifically by barring able bodied citizens from meeting work requirements to apply and be approved for Medicaid.
“It’s hard for the General Assembly to negotiate with the feds, isn’t that why we have a governor, so we can negotiate with the feds?” Batinick asked.
“I don’t expect in a million years that this House and this General Assembly will pass something groundbreaking where Illinois citizens would say, ‘Hey, they are trying to take care of something for people that actually need the services,’” Batinick said. "I urge a no vote."
Voting on the House floor indicated HB4165 passed 58-44.