(The Center Square) – A measure Democrats say will “dramatically alter” the state’s health care system is poised for Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk. 

Democrats say it's needed for residents. Republicans say the bill could increase the state’s health care costs by up to $12 billion

House Bill 158 cleared the Illinois Senate last week after previously passing the House earlier in the month.

State Sen. Mattie Hunter, D-Chicago, said the measure will make Illinois a trailblazer.

“Community health worker certification, maternal and infant mortality, mental and substance abuse treatment, hospital reform and medical implicit bias, addressing these areas will dramatically alter the structure of our healthcare system for the better,” Hunter said.

State Sen. Steve McClure, R-Springfield, said there are good things in the bill, but the state is broke and can’t afford the price tag of $5 billion to $12 billion.

“The $7.5 billion from the recent [federal] stimulus is going to help us quite a bit, but we’re still in very rough financial shape right now,” McClure said.

State Sen. Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago, said the bill was necessary.

“We cannot not afford it,” Collins said. “How do you put a price tag on somebody’s life and the quality of life?”

Funding of expanded programs would be subject to appropriation.

In promoting statehouse Republican’s Reimagine Illinois platform Thursday, state Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer, R-Jacksonville, said the state can’t afford more programs. Instead, the state should foster job growth and prioritize spending on current obligations, he said.

“They promised a healthcare funding bill that would promise an additional $5 [billion] to $12 billion,” Davidsmeyer said. “We have to get back to the things that we’ve already promised."

Davidsmeyer said the state can’t even properly fund its unfunded pension obligations or backlogged bills, let alone expand new programs.

The measure could be sent to the governor any day.

Staff Reporter

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience and hosts the WMAY Morning Newsfeed out of Springfield.