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Gov. Rauner, stop preventing Illinoisans’ access to quality healthcare!

Protect Our Care IL is deeply disappointed in Governor Rauner’s veto of two bills that would have protected Illinoisans against inadequate coverage and diminished access to care.  By vetoing HB 2624, the Short-term, Limited Duration Insurance Act and HB 4165, the “Do No Harm” Health Care Act Governor Rauner is sending a clear signal that access to comprehensive care and the opportunity for public input are not priorities for this administration.

HB 2624 was a bipartisan, negotiated bill that would have protected Illinois consumers from a new federal rule that turns back the clock on protections for consumers with pre-existing conditions. HB 2624 would have limited Illinois consumers’ exposure to short term health insurance plans which provide diminished coverage parading as a more affordable option. The bill would have kept these plans truly short term by limiting their coverage duration in a year, requiring clear and easily understandable language on all marketing and promotional materials, and giving DOI the regulatory muscle to actually protect consumers against these plans. With Governor Rauner’s veto, Illinoisans are now at risk of being sold stingy coverage that denies anyone with a pre-existing condition and will drive up premiums for everyone by pulling healthy, young individuals away from the marketplace.

Reaction by HB 2624 sponsor Rep. Laura Fine:

I am deeply disappointed with Governor Rauner’s veto of HB 2624. I remain very concerned about Illinoisans with pre-existing conditions who will end up in a short-term, limited duration health insurance plan and be left exposed to lack of care and exuberant out of pocket medical costs in 2019 and beyond.

HB 4165 would have ensured that the members of the General Assembly and the constituents they represent had input in a public process if any Illinois Governor decided to use a federal waiver to reduce healthcare access and treatment. In the last 6 months alone, we have seen Governors in many other states take up the Trump administration’s offer and encouragement to apply for federal waivers to restrict access to healthcare of its lowest income residents. The Do No Harm Healthcare Act would have given members of the IL General Assembly the power to provide a critical check and balance to review any attempts to weaken or reduce our healthcare. Unfortunately, with Governor Rauner’s veto, Illinois is similarly vulnerable to any upcoming attacks.

Reaction by HB 4165 sponsor Rep. Greg Harris:

Gov. Rauner’s veto of HB 4165 undermines sound policy and risks access to high quality comprehensive health care for all Illinoisans.  Rather than commit to public input, vetoing HB 4165 allows the Governor unchecked power to issue waivers that could let insurance companies drop your coverage for maternity care, substance abuse and mental health treatment, and prescription drug coverage, or to charge sky high rates to people with pre-existing conditions. We are seeing our heath care being treated like pawns in a game, moved not for the people who need healthcare, but by the insurance companies who profit from it.

We’ve already seen the uninsured rate start to inch back up in Illinois over the last few years due to sabotage by the federal government; now it’s up to the states to protect the health of their residents. With these two vetoes, Governor Rauner has abdicated his responsibility to look out for the best interests of Illinois residents and protect our care.

Protect Our Care Illinois urges Governor Rauner to sign HB 2624 in the wake of today’s action by the Trump Administration

Today, the Trump Administration continued its summer of sabotage of the health insurance marketplace by finalizing a rule to allow the sale of short-term health insurance with renewability of up to 3 years – essentially offering a shadow market to the comprehensive plans offered by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While touted as an affordable option, these plans are cheap for a reason: they lock out people with pre-existing conditions and for those “healthy” individuals who are able to buy coverage, they exclude prescription drugs, maternity care, mental health coverage and even treatment of injury resulting from playing organized sports.

Fortunately, Governor Rauner has the opportunity to stop this rule from harming Illinois residents. A bill sitting on his desk – HB 2624 – limits the sale of short term health plans in Illinois to 180 days in any given year and would eliminate confusion by requiring insurers who sell these plans in Illinois to have clear, plain language on all sales and marketing materials.

Without action at the state level, the new rule will entice healthy individuals to purchase these inadequate plans and result in higher premiums or coverage denial for 5 million individuals in Illinois with illnesses and pre-existing conditions. According to the Urban Institute, this rule along with the elimination of the penalty for not having health coverage, would mean an estimated premium increase of 20% for Illinois consumers. In addition, 327,000 more Illinoisans would lack comprehensive health coverage, because they will either become uninsured or will end up in short-term plans rife with limitations, exclusions, and missing benefits.

Illinois should establish reasonable limits and consumer protections for short-term plans. Please join Protect Our Care Illinois in urging Governor Rauner to sign HB 2624 which will help protect Illinois consumers from financial hardships caused by the federal government’s new rule.

Trump Administration Slashes Funding to Help Families Enroll in Health Insurance

The Trump administration announced a drastic $26 million funding cut on Tuesday for programs that provide in-person assistance to help people enroll in health insurance coverage.  This announcement represents a cut of over 80% of funds in previous years along with other actions taken by the Administration to undermine the program, including removing navigator duties from trusted community and state-based organizations that know the populations they serve best, and placing them in the hands of entities that are not physically located where people who need coverage live and work. Navigators are intended to provide a vital service, offering clear, unbiased information for people to understand their insurance options, to receive financial assistance, and ultimately to enroll in and use their plans through health insurance marketplaces.

The Trump Administration cited last year’s open enrollment as the “most cost effective and successful open enrollment to date,” stating the visibility and familiarity of the Exchange diminishes the needed for federally funded Navigators.  We believe credit should be given where credit is due: the success of last year’s open enrollment was due to Navigators, certified application counselors, volunteers, and healthcare advocates across the country that employed Herculean tactics to stave off the Trump Administration’s persistent sabotage. Navigators, in particular, assist the most difficult-to-enroll populations across our state and have made the ACA a reality in every corner of our state, from the multicultural communities of Chicago to the most rural and isolated communities across Illinois.

Consumers need trusted and unbiased assistance that will not steer them into non-compliant plans that may hurt them by not covering pre-existing conditions or failing to include the ACA’s essential health benefits.  Given the continued attacks on health care, including federal rules allowing the resurgence of low-cost, junk health insurance plans, such as association health plans and short-term plans, consumers looking for good, comprehensive coverage could be easily confused. This is a time when consumers need more help to understand the insurance options that are available to them—not less.

We call on Illinois’ Members of Congress to denounce the Trump Administration’s latest moves to undermine affordable, quality coverage for millions of Americans and provide a fast remedy to this situation and require funding for a robust, community-based enrollment assistance effort.

POC-IL Statement: Affordable Care Act Repeal

Earlier this week, Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), along with representatives from conservative think tanks, released a new plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Like last year’s repeal bills, this new repeal plan would have severe negative effects on health insurance coverage, access to care, and the health and financial security of millions of Americans. The repeal plan would eliminate the ACA’s Medicaid expansion for low-income adults, lead to sharply increased health care costs for millions of moderate-income individual-market consumers – many of whom are vulnerable older adults – and eliminate consumer protections that are crucial for people with pre-existing health conditions. This repeal bill, like the ones before it, jeopardizes health coverage for millions of individuals and families across Illinois.

To fuel the fire, this attack on the ACA comes on the heels of the Federal Administration’s release of a final rule that allows the expanded sale of “association health plans.” The rule allows employers and associations to skirt the ACA rules and sell junk health insurance plans that don’t meet the consumer protections of the ACA. This will make coverage for people with pre-existing conditions unaffordable while further destabilizing the ACA marketplaces by segregating people who are sick or have pre-existing conditions into separate costly health care markets.

Protect Our Care Illinois strongly urges Congress to reject this latest proposal and any future efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. As we saw last year, the American public has overwhelmingly rejected every single disastrous health care repeal proposal, and this one is no different. The repeal plan does not nothing to improve the ACA and instead resurrects unpopular ideas that will cause millions of Americans to lose health insurance coverage. Instead, policymakers should work on a bipartisan basis to improve the ACA and make health care better for all.

 

POC-IL Urges Illinois Members of Congress to Denounce Trump Administration’s Unprecedented Attack on Pre-Existing Condition Protections

Protect Our Care Illinois denounces the Trump administration’s latest and most egregious step to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The administration has decided to take the position that it is unconstitutional to stop insurance companies from denying or dropping coverage for people with pre-existing conditions like cancer, asthma, HIV or diabetes. As a result, the U.S. Department of Justice went to court last week and demanded the repeal of the ACA’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

If the Administration gets their way and you are one of over 5 million Illinoisans who has a pre-existing condition, your protections will disappear. Insurance companies will once again be allowed to deny you coverage or hit you with exorbitant medical bills and push you into bankruptcy.

We urge the Illinois Congressional delegation to speak out against the Administration for abandoning its constitutional responsibilities to defend the law of the land and to protect the millions of constituents in Illinois who will be hurt by this unprecedented and devastating decision.

Protect Our Care Illinois Denounces the Trump Administration’s Proposal to Bring Back Junk Insurance

The Trump Administration’s proposal that extends short-term health insurance plans to almost 12 months, rolls back essential consumer protections, placing individuals and families at risk for finical hardship as a result of inadequate coverage disguised as affordable insurance.

The proposed rule to extend short-term plans allows insurance plans to skirt the consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and offer sub par coverage that does not include essential health benefits. For example, under the proposed rules, plans in Illinois could exclude prescription drugs, prenatal care/delivery and treatment of injury resulting from playing organized sports. The rule will entice healthy individuals to purchase these cheap though inadequate plans and result in higher premiums, or coverage denial for individuals with illnesses and pre-existing conditions.

The administration claims they are offering consumers more choice, but in reality they’re raising costs for older and less healthy Americans at the expense of offering cheaper coverage to younger and healthy individuals that likely won’t be enough to cover the incredible cost of unexpected injury or illness.

Once again, the Administration is working hard to sabotage health coverage for individuals instead of stabilizing the Marketplace and helping individuals and families afford high quality, comprehensive coverage that keeps them healthy and safe guards them from the financial ruin of inadequate healthcare.

Protect Our Care Illinois will be submitting comments on this proposed rule and we suggest all Illinoisans do the same. Let HHS know you support the ACA and don’t want to see it undermined: You can submit a comment here. Public comments must be received no later than 5 p.m. Eastern time on April 23, 2018.

We Call on the Illinois Legislature to Reject Governor Rauner’s FY19 Budget

Protect Our Care Illinois urges the legislature to soundly reject the proposed budget introduced by Governor Rauner yesterday. The Governor proposes a $150 million cut to the Medicaid program, threatening access to care for the over 3.2 million Illinoisans including children, seniors, and people with disabilities who depend on the program. Medicaid helps fund hospitals, nursing homes, early childhood programs, and special education. Medicaid is the largest insurer in the State and is an essential driver of the Illinois economy, not only keeping our residents healthy enough to attend school and work but also employing our neighbors in community medical centers. Governor Rauner is proposing drastic cuts to Medicaid in a year in which Medicaid has been under attack at the federal level. The Trump administration and Congress have attempted again and again to repeal the Affordable Care Act and after failing repeatedly, have taken aim at the Medicaid program in the President’s recently introduced budget. Don’t let the federal government dictate what is right for Illinois and don’t let the Governor play into their hands – keep the Medicaid program whole and Illinois healthy. Reject any cuts to the Medicaid program.

POC-IL Statement: Nearly 12 Million People Enrolled in Health Coverage Through the Marketplace, Underscoring the Continued Importance of the ACA for Working Families

Despite relentless repeal efforts, over 11.8 million people signed up for coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Insurance Marketplaces for plan year 2018. This figure represents only a slight (3.7%) decline in enrollment compared to last year, which is simply remarkable considering the headwinds and obstacles faced during this year’s open enrollment. In fact, a report out Wednesday shows that states running their own marketplaces posted significant enrollment increases and demonstrates what is possible with leadership that is supportive of the law.

Open enrollment began after the Trump administration sharply cut federal enrollment outreach efforts, reduced the time frame to enroll, raised premiums by ending cost-sharing subsidy payments, and and even posted advertisements critical of the law on official government websites. “Despite higher prices, less time, and less help, enrollment is stable,” said Graciela Guzman, Coalition Manager of Protect Our Care Illinois. “We could not be happier for the millions of families who can rest easy knowing they will not face financial ruin in the event of a serious illness or injury thanks to this coverage.”

Protect Our Care Illinois and its member organizations applaud these robust enrollment figures and the thousands of families who signed up here in Illinois as well. This year, 334,979 Illinois residents enrolled through the end of open enrollment on Dec. 15, down only 6% compared to 2017. “We were worried it would be significantly lower – we had everything against us,” Guzman went on to say. “But a surge in demand for help from enrollment assisters and navigators showed that people really want this coverage. The numbers show it, and it makes sense. This is good coverage that most people can afford.”

These strong enrollment numbers remind us how highly families value the private health insurance and consumer protections offered through marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act. Despite counterproductive actions by the Trump Administration, families from across the nation signed up for coverage at an unprecedented pace. We urge President Trump and his Congress to honor the will of the American people and abandon their efforts to undermine the ACA health coverage relied on by working families. Instead, lawmakers at the federal and state levels should focus on improving the health of our communities by helping more families afford their health insurance and ensuring that the coverage they receive is comprehensive and high quality.

POC-IL Sign-On Letter: Gov Rauner, Oppose Medicaid Work Requirements!

Protect Our Care Illinois has proudly joined 100 of our partner organizations in signing on to a letter calling on Governor Bruce Rauner to join us in opposing any work requirements for Medicaid.

Work requirements unnecessarily create barriers to health care, strip people of these health benefits, and cost the State of Illinois billions of Federal dollars with no benefit for our state.

Read our sign-on letter here.

Act NOW to Support Community Health Centers!

Despite widespread bipartisan agreement on the need to pass long-term funding for Community Health Centers, this funding was not included in the Continuing Resolution introduced in the House. Instead, Congress’ short-term funding proposal pits crucial health programs against each other. It includes a six-year funding extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), while neglecting to fund Community Health Centers (also known as Federally Qualified Health Centers or FQHCs) and a number of other important health programs whose funding has lapsed.

Community Health Center’s (CHC’s) now face a 70% reduction in funds without Congress action. Such a dramatic loss of funds would be catastrophic for the one million Illinoisans and 27 million people nationwide who depend on CHCs for their care. Underserved communities would be hardest hit. One out of every three people living in poverty and one out of four rural Americans depend on CHCs for health care services. Indeed, these clinics are not only a source of care but also provide good jobs to these communities. In addition, CHC’s provide care and services for many children enrolled in CHIP, so funding CHIP without funding CHC’s creates an unnecessary barrier to access for children across our state.

Congress’ inability to respond to the health center funding cliff leaves health centers and their patients facing considerable damage with each passing day. Already, health centers are instituting hiring freezes and deferring plans to invest in their communities. If Congress does not fund CHCs by the end of the month, layoffs and site closures are sure to follow. An estimated 50,000 jobs and care for nine millions patients are in jeopardy.

Health centers simply cannot wait another month for a resolution of this crisis. We urge the House and Senate to continue to work towards a final package that includes long-term funding for Community Health Centers, CHIP and other critical health care extenders by January 19th.