By Monique Garcia

Gov. Pat Quinn today signed into law a Medicaid expansion bill that will tap $2.4 billion in federal funds over the next several years to provide more health care coverage for the poor.

The money includes approximately $400 million to enroll new patients under the Affordable Care Act, pending federal approval.

The influx of dollars will allow the state to restore several services previously cut due to budget pressures, including dental and podiatric care, the governor's office said. Supporters say paying for those preventative services will save money by keeping patients out of emergency rooms.

The measure will also allow Cook County to create its own private health insurance network and funnel additional dollars to nursing homes and the state's network of safety net hospitals.

"We want to have an integrated system that focuses on wellness," Quinn said. "We want to make sure that we can prevent bad things whenever possible so people are not having to pay enormous amounts of money to deal with life threatening diseases and chronic ailments that we could have dealt with earlier."

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