Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration is ending enrollment in its health-care plan after months of pushing for a dramatic expansion of the program against the wishes of lawmakers.
Thousands of adults have enrolled already, and it's not clear whether they will continue to get coverage or if the state will pay for services provided.
In a memo dated April 22, the administration ordered health-care workers to stop enrolling adults, age 19 or older, earning more than $13,832 annually. Pregnant women may earn up to $20,800 and still qualify, the memo said.
The shift is consistent with a Cook County judge's April 15 order blocking the governor's push to make health care available to adults earning up to $41,600.
Still, it marks a retreat for Blagojevich. Since last fall, he attempted to expand the program, even though lawmakers refused to authorize the spending, and a special legislative panel twice rejected rules to enact the coverage.
Blagojevich's objective is universal health care. When the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services filed an "emergency" rule last November to initiate the expansion, it said the "lack of access to insurance has reached a crisis level requiring immediate action."
"They're not following the wishes of the legislature," said state Sen. Brad Burzynski, R-Clare, in response to the administration's shift. "They're following the edict of the court."
At issue is health care for an estimated 25,000 individuals earning up to $19,240 and 3,300 individuals earning up to $41,600 - the maximum income allowed under the governor's expansion. Generally, these adults are parents of children previously enrolled in publicly funded health care.
When Judge James Epstein rejected the governor's program in April because it failed to meet federal standards, he blocked state Comptroller Dan Hynes from paying bills for the program expansion.
The judge later lifted the order on Hynes, but Hynes' lawyers said the Blagojevich administration had not provided data necessary to determine which health-care payments requested by the administration would be allowed.
Lawyers are headed back to court next week.
"It's a huge mess," said Richard Caro, the west suburban attorney who took Blagojevich's health-care expansion to court.
Aaron Chambers can be reached at 782-2959 or firstname.lastname@example.org.