Illinois' First District Appellate
Court in Chicago upheld a lower court's decision to deny Blagojevich
permission to broaden FamilyCare after he was rebuffed by the
General Assembly and the secretary of state.
governor went ahead anyway, offering FamilyCare to participants with
higher incomes, up to $83,000 a year for a family of four. The
higher the incomes, the larger the premiums.
In a lawsuit
filed by a lawyer and two business-group representatives,
Blagojevich lawyers admitted they had virtually no record of the
program, according to the opinion written by Judge James Fitzgerald
officials ''cannot identify program participants, provide them with
notice, or monitor payments, they do not even know (or at least have
refused to reveal) where the premiums they have collected are kept
and how much remains,'' Smith wrote.
''You've got an
agency which is totally incompetent and a governor and agency head
who are breaking the law,'' said Ron Gidwitz, one of the plaintiffs.
spokeswoman for Blagojevich's Department of Healthcare and Family
Services, said the agency has the information, but just couldn't
produce it on the spot at a hearing last spring.
plaintiffs never received the information as requested, a spokesman
said. Thompson countered the court never ordered the agency to turn
it over and would not reveal any of the data Friday, saying a
Freedom of Information Act request would have to be submitted.
Blagojevich appeals and the state Supreme Court accepts the case,
the issue goes back to circuit court, which would conduct a hearing
on whether the program is legal. But injunctions typically are
granted when the plaintiffs have a good case.
in a prepared statement that his staff is reviewing the opinion ''to
determine what implications, if any, it has for the FamilyCare
''We will take
whatever actions are necessary to protect working families' access
to needed health care,'' the Democratic governor said.
president of the Illinois Manufacturers Association and a plaintiff,
called the lack of records ''appalling'' and said it's likely
plaintiffs will ask the judge to appoint an outside monitor to
''unwind'' the program because Blagojevich can't be trusted.
William Holland's reviews have repeatedly chastised the Blagojevich
administration for its lackluster record-keeping and inability to
follow rules in a variety of programs and agencies.
[to top of second column]
To justify the
expansion, Smith said, Blagojevich was picking favorable parts of
federal welfare law to enroll participants who don't even qualify
program, then, is in direct contradiction to the unambiguous
language of the code defendants rely upon to operate it,'' Smith
In early 2007,
Blagojevich proposed a $2 billion-a-year universal health insurance
program paid for by income-based premiums and $7 billion in new
business taxes that lawmakers quickly rejected.
He then focused
on a $40 million expansion of FamilyCare, increasing the income
maximum for participation from 185 percent of the federal poverty
level, or about $38,000 for a family of four, to 400 percent, for
147,000 additional participants.
nixed that, too, he proposed an emergency rule, based on uncertainty
in Washington over federal support of the program. But the Joint
Committee on Administrative Rules, a bipartisan legislative body,
said ''no'' twice.
He argued in
later court action aimed at forcing the secretary of state to
publish the rules that JCAR is an advisory body that governor's not
bound to follow.
administration began enrolling newcomers anyway, and when ordered to
stop by the circuit court, announced it would continue to cover
those who had signed up.
unfortunate it's taken this long to point out what we felt from the
beginning, the governor and his administration had overstepped their
bounds,'' Baise said.
Press, John O'Connor
Copyright 2008 The Associated
Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.