Don’t expect to find out whether Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s health care expansion plans are ruled unconstitutional until at least next month. After a hearing in Chicago Friday, each party in the lawsuit needs to spell out its arguments in briefs for the judge to review. A status hearing isn’t scheduled until February 19, which happens to be the day before the governor’s annual and much-anticipated — or dreaded, depending on who you are — budget address. That’s when he maps out his agenda for the year.
Background: Attorney Richard Caro of Riverside sued the administration alleging the governor’s actions to expand state-sponsored health care were unconstitutional because he would have extended coverage to 147,000 more people for $42 million in the first year — all without legislative approval. The lawsuit includes similar allegations by the Illinois Coalition for Jobs, Growth, and Prosperity, represented by businessman Ron Gidwitz, a Republican who ran for governor, and Greg Baise, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturer’s Association.
History: The governor first couldn’t get his health care plans through the Illinois General Assembly last year, mostly because he proposed paying for it with a huge tax on businesses. Then he tried to use his executive authority and advance the plan through the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, made up of six Democrats and six Republicans. That didn’t work, either. The committee rejected the emergency plan in November.
Future: Jim Duffett, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Better Health Care that’s supporting the governor’s efforts, said he hopes the court case doesn’t have a chilling effect on lawmakers who actually want to expand health care. He advises against using the lawsuit as a diversion to the evidence that a majority of Illinois voters are concerned about health care and want guaranteed affordable health care for all. See a summary of the statewide survey here.
Watch for more about the health care lawsuit against the governor in the next edition of Illinois Issues magazine, due out in early February.