As Illinois' healthcare costs expand, lawmakers are considering an unusual way to save money: a tax on sugary drinks.
Supporters say the penny-per-ounce tax would generate $600 million. Half would be put toward Medicaid (the state's healthcare program for the poor) and the rest would be invested in health education programs.
Mark Peysakhovich of the American Heart Association said both the tax itself and the education initiatives would provide a major return on investment by bringing down the cost of Medicaid.
“We very often think about the short-term cost, not thinking about the long-term cost to our kids and to their health. Nobody is thinking, 'I'm reaching out for a bottle of diabetes.' We need to remind people of those costs as much as we can at the point at which they're making a decision,” said Peysakhovich.
But not everyone's on board. Food distributors and labor unions oppose the bill. They say it would hurt the industries that produce sugary drinks -- from the farmers who sell their crops for corn syrup to the factories making cans for soda.