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Preckwinkle hoping, praying Obama, and ObamaCare, win

Friday, October 19, 2012
Chicago Sun-Times

With so much electoral politics descending into the trivial, it sounds like typical partisan hysteria to say that lives are at stake. But one look at the frayed health care safety net in Cook County and there is no other conclusion.

The county spends an enormous amount of money treating the sick indigent.

“We spent half a billion dollars a year on completely uncompensated care,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, speaking before the Sun-Times editorial board earlier this week. “So when the University of Chicago and Northwestern and Rush brag about their charity care, it’s less than 5 percent. For most of them it’s 2 or 3 percent, and for us it’s half a billion dollars.”

Preckwinkle would like the federal government to start lending a hand with that, as it is supposed to once ObamaCare kicks in. She has made several trips to Springfield and Washington, lobbying to get the necessary permission and laying the groundwork to get funds that other states have already received — including New Jersey, Texas and California.

“Other people were smart enough to take advantage of it before we were,” she said.

If the waiver is received, as many as 250,000 Cook County residents who will be eligible for Medicare in 2014 can start using it as early as Dec. 1. Preckwinkle called this development “critical” and, cynic that I am, I had to ask: But what if that Mitt Romney fellow wins and starts doing as he promised and dismantling ObamaCare a month later?

“They can’t throw it out in January,” she said. “It was passed by Congress and signed by the president. So in contrast to what Gov. Romney says, that he’s going to sign this the day he walks in the office, that’s not what happens. If there’s federal legislation passed, you have to go through the process of repealing it. You can’t repeal it as executive.”

And if that happens?

“It’s a disaster for us,” she said plainly. “We hope and pray for many reasons that this president is re-elected.”

Which is something that should prod those who have trouble getting to the polls in a few weeks. Maybe your life, maybe the life of someone you know or love, and certainly the lives of neighbors untold, hang in the balance.

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