Toni Preckwinkle, president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, discussed increasing health care access, decreasing the county prison population, transparency and corruption in government and her own political plans during an appearance at Rush on Wednesday. Preckwinkle was the guest speaker at the J. Robert Clapp, Jr., Diversity Achievement Award ceremony, held in the Searle Conference Room of Rush’s Professional Building.
Much of Preckwinkle’s talk, which took the form of a question and answer session with the audience, focused on the county health system. She began by noting that 80,000 previously uninsured people in Cook County have enrolled in County Care, the expansion of Medicaid with funding provided by the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. An additional 50,000 people have applied for the program, according to Preckwinkle. “We see county care as the future of our health care delivery system,” she said.
Providing a larger number of people with health insurance in turn enables a shift from emergency room care to primary care, which “is what our uninsured and underinsured desperately need,” Preckwinkle said. She observed that this shift also reduces costs in the health care system. For example, she said, a person who reports at an emergency room with a headache may receive a costly MRI, while one who sees a primary care doctor will be asked about stress levels and water intake.
“It’s to great credit to President Obama that he expanded access to care. It’s dramatically expanded the resources we have to provide care,” Preckwinkle said. However, she added later, in passing the Affordable Care Act, Congress and the President “made a deal with the devil, because they excluded the undocumented.”