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Obamacare replacement bill threatens higher health care costs, less insurance coverage for Illinois consumers, advocates warn

SPRINGFIELD, IL — Nearly one million Illinois working families would either lose their health insurance or face onerous increases in medical costs under the plan to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that Congressional Republicans introduced this week, according to the Protect Our Care Illinois Coalition.

Coalition members urged Illinois’ Congressional delegation, especially the members of the GOP majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, to oppose the legislation, which they described as a prescription for spiraling costs and shrinking coverage in health care available to state residents.   The coalition also cautioned that a bill with such jarring impacts deserves a full public debate, not the indiscriminate headlong rush to passage that has been on exhibition in the nation’s capital this week.

For the 350,000 Illinois residents who purchased private medical coverage on the Marketplace in 2017, higher costs loom as the GOP plan threatens to curb existing tax credits that have trimmed insurance premiums while eliminating financial (“cost-sharing reductions”) assistance that has lowered out-of-pocket expenses that include often-bruising deductibles.

Meanwhile, the plan would reverse the expansion of the Medicaid program, decimating an ACA reform that provided health insurance to 650,000 Illinois residents who had been previously floundering in a coverage void.   Medicaid expansion would devolve back to the states by 2020 under the Republican proposal, leaving beneficiaries at the mercy of an Illinois budget already incapacitated by staggering deficits and with no foreseeable resources to continue to support the program.

Jessica’s ACA Story

Chicago-area resident Jessica Gimeno would be one of those 650,000 Illinois residents caught in the resulting coverage breach.  In 2008 she was afflicted with a rare autoimmune disease that left her hospitalized and bedridden for a year.  Her medical expenses averaged $900 monthly, leaving her financially distressed and physically compromised.  Gimeno subsequently qualified for coverage under the ACA’s Medicaid expansion.

“Medicaid expansion changed my life,” Gimeno said.  “I have not had to worry about the costs of surgery, among many other expenses.  But under this new ACA replacement plan, it appears that I’m doomed to lose my coverage.  If that happens, it’s no exaggeration to say I fear for my life.  I was in this plight before Medicaid expansion, so I know just how precarious conditions are without it.”

With ramifications this dire, members of the Protect Our Care Illinois Coalition condemned the cloak of secrecy that surrounded deliberations on the bill and ensuing haste to pass it with minimal public input – even before the Congressional Budget Office, a non-partisan agency that reviews the financial implications of legislation has had an opportunity to appraise its impacts.

“It is disastrous and reckless to jam a law through the House in one week that will literally impact millions of people in Illinois and tens of millions across the country, Claudia Lennhoff, Executive Director of Champaign County Champaign County Health Care Consumers (CCHCC), a Protect Our Care Illinois member said. “The people of Illinois want and deserve an open and transparent process, with actual coverage and budget implications from the CBO.”

The coalition urged all Illinois residents to contact their Congressional representatives at http://protectourcareil.org/index.php/take-action-page/, and ask them to oppose the legislation.