The General Assembly approved deep cuts Thursday in Medicaid, the state's health care program for the poor. Critics say it's balancing the state budget at the expense of its most needy citizens. But backers say the change is long overdue. The list of cuts is long and varied: people will only be able to get one pair of eyeglasses per year. Adults will no longer be eligible to visit chiropractors or podiatrists. And dental services will be limited to emergency extractions. Hospitals, nursing homes and other providers also take a haircut: the state's lowering reimbursements to them for treating poor patients. Many African-American lawmakers spoke out against the cuts, saying they would disproportionately affect their constituents, but the push to control costs won the day. Senator Dale Righter is a Republican from Mattoon:
"The damage is too severe. The backlog of bills is way too heavy. Ladies and gentlemen, the floor is falling out beneath the people that you're talking about."
Governor Pat Quinn released a statement saying he supported the package of cuts. He's also urging legislators to finish the job by passing a dollar-a-pack tax increase on cigarettes.
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