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Illinois Medicaid Cuts: Gov. Pat Quinn $1.6 Billion In Medicaid Cuts, Cigarette Tax Hike Into Law (VIDEO)

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In this May 2, 2012 photo, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn speaks to members of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association at a luncheon in Springfield, Ill. Quinn recently lit a fire under the simmering questions of what Illinois will do about climbing pension and Medicaid costs. He proposed cuts in both programs and warned that inaction could mean financial disaster for the state. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
In this May 2, 2012 photo, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn speaks to members of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association at a luncheon in Springfield, Ill. Quinn recently lit a fire under the simmering questions of what Illinois will do about climbing pension and Medicaid costs. He proposed cuts in both programs and warned that inaction could mean financial disaster for the state. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Democratic Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on Thursday signed a package of legislation -- including $1.6 billion worth of Medicaid cuts and a $1-per-pack cigarette tax hike -- into law.

While opponents of the governor's plan criticize the sweeping Medicaid cuts as endangering the poorest and neediest of the state's residents, Quinn described his Thursday move in a statement as one that "preserved our health care program that millions of our most vulnerable rely upon," the Chicago Tribune reports.

"One of our most important missions in Springfield this year was to save Medicaid from the brink of collapse," the governor's statement read. "I applaud the members of our working group and of the General Assembly, who worked together in a bipartisan manner to tackle a grave crisis."

The cuts, which go into effect on July 1, mean that more than 25,000 working parents throughout the state will lose their state-supported insurance coverage, the Associated Press reports. Low-income seniors will face higher prescription drug costs under the plan.

Dental and vision care for adults will be heavily scaled back, and state-supported chiropractic and podiatric coverage has been cut altogether.

The governor also on Thursday approved an additional $1 tax on cigarettes, which goes into effect on June 24, NBC Chicago reports. The governor estimates that the tax hike will generate some $350 million for the cash-strapped state, but opponents fear that the extra cost will cause smokers to stock up on cigarettes across state lines, forcing some small retailers to go out of business.

Quinn introduced the Medicaid cuts earlier this year as a means to contend with the state's record-setting $13 billion deficit.

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