Cook County last week announced it received a long-awaited federal approval for a so-called 1115 Medicaid waiver, allowing the county to expand its Medicaid program and a key to balancing the county's proposed 2013 $3 billion budget.

The waiver allows the county to enroll the patients a year ahead of the formal start of the new law. The administration expects to save more than $95 million by enrolling 115,000 patients into the expanded program a year ahead of the formal start of the new law, board President Toni Preckwinkle said.

The federal dollars are key to eliminating a chunk of the county's $287 million shortfall.

"This waiver gives Cook County a taste of what's to come in 2014 when the full benefits of the Affordable Care Act will be realized and the federal government will pay 100% of the cost for all newly eligible Medicaid beneficiaries," U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in a statement.

"With this waiver, Cook County will expand Medicaid and provide health insurance to more than 100,000 county residents who have been living without the peace of mind that comes with being insured — and the federal government will pick up half of the tab," Durbin said.

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