Despite questions about how it would work, the Illinois House on Thursday approved the governor's plan to cover every uninsured child in the state.
The measure, HB 806, now heads to Gov. Rod Blagojevich's desk, where he promised to sign it into law.
"Passing the All Kids plan is a landmark achievement in Illinois," the governor said. "Every child deserves the chance to be healthy."
Blagojevich estimated that 253,000 Illinois children do not have health insurance. The parents of many of those children earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, yet not enough to afford other kinds of health insurance.
All Kids, which would provide medical, dental and vision care, is projected to cost about $45 million in the first year, according to the governor. He plans to pay for it primarily by shifting the state's Medicaid patients to a managed care system, a move that is estimated to save $56 million. Parents of children covered by All Kids will also pay a small per-child monthly premium and per-visit copay based on their income.
Those details were not included in the legislation itself, however. Nor were details about who would be eligible and exactly how the plan would be implemented.
Legislators from both parties agreed that children should have access to health care, but some Republicans balked at a bill that left so many decisions to the discretion of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.
"We're being asked to vote for a bill that does not spell out exactly what's going to happen," said state Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville. "The bill in effect says 'trust me.' & I am not comfortable and I don't think it's right for any of us to abdicate our responsibility as legislators."
Many Republicans questioned whether the governor's cost estimates were accurate, whether the state would be able to afford the program in the long run, and whether there would be enough doctors and dentists willing to participate.
They were also skeptical about Blagojevich's motives for fast-tracking the bill. It was introduced and passed within three days.
"This is really just a political ploy when some governor's (poll) numbers are down," said Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro.
State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Woodstock, said that was not a good enough reason to vote against it.
"We all know it's political," he said. "Sure it is, but it also happens to be the right thing."
The House passed the bill on a vote of 79-28, with 9 members voting present.
State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, voted yes, while Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, voted no. Black and Rep. Shane Cultra, R-Onarga, voted present.
The General Assembly's veto session will resume on Nov. 2.