More than 115,000 Cook County residents will now be eligible for public healthcare at no cost to the state of Illinois, thanks to a federal medical waiver allowing the county to pre-enroll individuals who will be eligible for Medicaid in 2014 into the Cook County Medicaid network.

The waiver allows Cook County’s Health System to “early enroll” certain uninsured patients into Medicaid who are not currently eligible but who will become eligible in 2014 under the Accountable Care Act. 

“I commend Cook County Board President Preckwinkle and Cook County Hospital Systems CEO Raju on their efforts to attain this waiver,” said Sen. Hunter. “I am thankful we will be able to expand access to quality health services for those who need it most while maintaining quality services for those already receiving them.”

The waiver is funded entirely by the federal government. Up until receipt of the waiver, the County and its taxpayers have been assuming financial responsibility of uncompensated and uninsured patients. Many of these patients will now be covered by the Medicaid waiver.

The Waiver will also give Cook County’s Health System, one of the largest in the country, a head start in planning for the future Medicaid managed care model, which most health systems will be converting to in 2014.

Category: Front Page

This spring legislative session, the General Assembly took action on a number of important initiatives including the budget deficit and job creation, among other issues.  Some of my legislation ultimately did not make it through the General Assembly, but I promise to continue discussions and try to resolve these issues.  For more information on the 2012 spring session, read the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus’ legislative wrap-up

Listed below are a handful of my legislative accomplishments over the past several months. 


Encouraging more opportunity for youth employment

In 2011, national youth employment was at its lowest level in post- World War II history at 26 percent. Because of this astounding number, I am sponsoring Senate Resolution 596, urging Congress to pass legislation that would invest in youth employment opportunities that benefit both young individuals and communities. 

Senate Resolution 596 urges Congress to pass the $5 billion Pathways Back to Work legislation.  The funding would be allocated for summer and year-round employment, education, and training. Pathways Back to Work is an expansion of the $1.2 billion President Obama and Congress allocated to summer youth employment in the 2009 economic stimulus package that employed over 330,000 youths nationwide. 

At the state level, youth unemployment in Illinois last year was 73 percent for teenagers 16 to 19 years old, with minority teens experiencing the heaviest unemployment rates. I recently introduced Senate Bill 3660, which would move the Youth Empowerment Program to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The program would provide competitive grants for local community-based non-profits, educational facilities, and government agencies to hire up to 5,000 low-income youths each summer. Each youth, age 14-21, would be given a stipend of $7.50 an hour up to 200 hours over a 10-week period.

Helping Illinois’ minority and female-owned businesses 

Responding to public outcry, Metra decided to delay awarding a contract to an Elgin-based contractor to build the Englewood Flyover rail bridge. Metra officials said they would postpone awarding the contract after Congressmen Danny K. Davis, Jesse Jackson, Jr., and Bobby Rush disputed the original winning contract because it was not awarded to a local company. In an effort to end this type of contract awarding, Senate Bill 2491 establishes the Working Capital Loan Repayment Fund, which will aid struggling Illinois minority and female-owned construction businesses in winning procurement contracts with Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT).  The Fund will be able to provide the companies with loans up to $3 million a year over the next 10 years, helping them with their current liabilities and expenses associated with these projects. The measure has not yet been called for a vote in the House of Representatives, and it is Senator Hunter’s plan to continue advocating for its passage.

Giving disadvantaged youth access to higher education

Working with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), Senator Hunter was able to champion a measure that will broaden eligibility for DCFS scholarships to children who obtained an education through homeschooling or online courses, or who aged out of foster care. The measure, Senate Bill 2818, is currently awaiting Governor Pat Quinn’s signature.

Bringing awareness to the threat of diabetes in Illinois

As a member of the Illinois Legislative Diabetes Caucus, Senator Hunter led the effort designating November 14 of each year as Diabetes Awareness Day. November 14 is World Diabetes Day and the birthday of Frederick Banting who, along with Charles Best, conducted experiments in 1922 that led to the discovery of insulin to manage diabetes. Another initiative by Senator Hunter reinserts the Diabetes Research Checkoff Fund into next year’s income tax form and would essentially exempt the checkoff from being removed from the form in the future. This checkoff allows taxpayers to donate their tax refunds to diabetes research.

Helping rehabilitated felons find jobs

House Bill 5771 makes it easier for a convicted criminal to receive a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities or a Certificate of Good Conduct in order to obtain employment. First, the bill allows an applicant to have multiple felony convictions. Currently, a person who has more than two felony convictions is not eligible for either certificate.  Second, the bill decreases the minimum period of time a felon must serve to be eligible for good conduct credit from three years to one year. 


Category: Front Page

SPRINGFIELD, ILThe Senate voted yesterday to change Medicaid eligibility in Illinois in an effort to bring down spending and the deficit.  State Senator Mattie Hunter joined several of her colleagues in voting against the measure because the bill changes the eligibility standards for Medicaid in Illinois.

“Legislators are out there saying this is Medicaid reform, but this is not reform,” Hunter said. “Reform does not mean balancing the budget on the backs of the poor and the vulnerable. This bill kicks almost 300,000 people off of Medicaid. These people are just the top tier of the poor, and they are not able to afford the services they need on their own. This is a disgrace for our state, and it is criminal.”

Almost 2.7 million people in Illinois, or about 21% of the state’s population, currently rely on Medicaid. More than 60% of those are children, about 9% are adults with developmental disabilities, and just over 6% are seniors that primarily receive help paying for nursing home care. To be eligible for Medicaid, a person must have a low income and be a child (or child’s caregiver), pregnant, elderly, or disabled.

“We keep taking and taking from the people who depend on these services,” Hunter continued. “Now we are eliminating a program helping seniors with prescriptions, taking away dental care, and other programs.  This bill is not the right solution.”


Listen to Senator Hunter's comments from the floor of the Illinois Senate {mp3}HunterMedicaidCutCommentsFloor24May12{/mp3}

Category: Front Page

The Illinois Senate passed a balanced budget for the next fiscal year that spends $255 million less than last year’s, fully funds the state’s pension obligations, and sets aside $1.3 billion to pay old bills. While making across-the-board cuts to most agency budgets, it avoids reductions to K-12 education, MAP grants, and other priorities. The budget uses extra money from special funds to pay vendors like childcare providers and nursing homes. The budget stays within caps established earlier this year based on the state’s expected revenue.

“I am concerned about the cuts to human services and corrections, but this budget proposal seems to be the best opportunity to prevent deeper and more harmful cuts to these programs. Unfortunately, the poor and underserved will still suffer as a result of this budget proposal. When additional monies become available in the next year, I will continue to campaign for that funding to go towards the human services programs necessary to the well being of our state.”

--State Senator Mattie Hunter


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