Speaking at Bloomington High School, Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin said Bloomington-Normal schools stand to lose about $500,000 in Medicaid funds under the Republican plan to repeal Obamacare.
Surrounded by local school officials, Durbin said the cuts would affect vision and dental screening for children, handicap accessible buses for students with disabilities, as well as physical therapists, counselors and nurses in schools.
Illinois schools receive a total of $144 million in Medicaid funding each year, the senator said.
Medicaid also currently pays for the pre-natal care and birth delivery of about half the children in the state, Durbin said.
Durbin said he is attempting to work with Republican colleagues in the Senate to revised a House version of the health care bill to repeal Obamacare. After initially embrassing the bill, President Trump referred to the House plan this week as "mean."
Durbin said he is not overly optimistic an agreement can be reached.
"If they (Republicans) strike a more moderate position in the Senate, can it possibly pass in the House because the more conservative Republicans wanted the version that passed. If they move to the center, will they lose support if it goes back to the House? So it really is a mystery at this point," Durbin said.
Still he remains hopeful. He said this week's shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise (R-LA) and three others playing for a Republican team during a charity baseball game practice on Wednesday outside Washington could set a new tone and lead to compromise over the bitterly-debated Obamacare replacement.
"Isn't this the right moment for us to open the doors and sit down together on health care reform? So I hope next week we will see that. I have suggested it, others have suggested it too, and it certainly would be a positive impact of that tragic circumstance," Durbin said.
Debate is scheduled to begin on health care reform next week, but Durbin said senators have yet to see a draft bill from their Republican colleagues.
Scalise, a congressional aide, a lobbyist and Capitol police officer were shot by James Hodgkinson of Belleville IL who expressed opposition on social media to the Trump administration. Hodgkinson was killed by police during the attack.
Durbin said Hodgkinson had sent 16 email messages to his office over the past eight years, which he turned over to law enforcement on the day of the shooting.
"I couldn't find anything in there that was a clue that this man would do something that violent," Durbin said. He said his office receives on average about 2,000 emails a day from Illinois.
Durbin was accompanied at the Friday press conference at Bloomington High by Barry Reilly, District 87 Schools Superintendent; Mark Daniel, Unit 5 Superintendent; Dawn Conway, executive director of Livingston County Special Services; and Paula Crane, president of the Illinois Principals Association.