Jake Chalkey, a 21-year-old from Streator, IL, was diagnosed with a brain malformation that only 17 other people in the world have. Thanks to life-saving medication to control his seizures, Jake has defied the odds and become the oldest living person with the disorder.

The Chalkey’s helped cover the costs of their son’s medication through Medicaid, but then unexpectedly had their coverage dropped in 2012 due to budget cuts that were made to keep the state’s Medicaid program from going bankrupt. The Chalkey’s maxed out all their credit cards to pay for their son’s life-saving medication.

Christine Chalkey, Jake’s mom, eventually resolved the issue with the state and got her son’s medication covered again. She has since become an advocate for people with disabilities to ensure they receive the aid they need.

With over a quarter of Illinois residents on Medicaid, the truly needy are pushed to the side because the state just doesn’t have the funds to cover all these enrollees. As a result, there are long waiting lines to receive care, and many hospitals can’t afford to see patients because unpaid bills from the state pile up.

Between the years 2013, when legislators voted to expand Medicaid, through 2016, at least 752 people died on waiting lists.

Medicaid was created to be a safety net for the truly needy. Illinois Medicaid enrollees have risen by over 130% and the system has been wrought with multiple scandals and investigations into the program’s waste and fraud.

Now, the Pritzker administration wants to stretch the program even further by funding gender- reassignment surgeries.

State services, the money you pay in taxes, should be prioritized on helping those most in need.

The state should focus Medicaid on providing care for those like Jake Chalkey and others. With limited resources and billions in backlogged bills, the state needs to focus on prioritizing the most vulnerable and restoring trust and accountability with taxpayers who foot the bills for these programs.

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