Illinois Cares Rx is part of the $1.6 billion being cut in the Medicaid package that the governor signed. That has the AARP worried. The program that pays for senior citizens’ prescriptions is being eliminated starting in July 1. David Vinkler of the AARP says it may look like saved money in the short-term, but will lead to expensive emergency room visits and more seniors in nursing homes in the future.

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“Illinois Cares Rx is maybe a couple hundred dollars a person each year,” Vinkler says. “If they go into a nursing home or they go on Medicaid you’ll be paying $3,000 a month in care. It won’t take many of those circumstances to counterbalance all these cuts anyways.”

Vinkler says he’s concerned the steep cuts will result in deaths that could have been prevented.

A $1.01 per-pack cigarette tax hike is part of the Medicaid package as well.  Convenience stores are saying the tax will hurt their sales.

Bill Fleishli of the Illinois Association of Convenience Stores says Illinois is trying to tax an unstable source of revenue.  When adjusted for inflation, the current cigarette tax revenue has declined by 24 percent since 2005.

“Charging a higher tax is running some of the smokers away,” Fleishli says. “In three or four years they’re going to have to raise some other source of revenue or try to raise another cigarette tax.”

He says cigarettes are one of the biggest sources of revenue for convenience stores, and the tax hike may force some stores on the border of other states out of business. Neighboring Missouri charges a tax of 17 cents a pack. Kentucky is 60 and Indiana 99 cents.

(Copyright WBGZ Radio/