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Challenges and Opportunities in Quality Affordable Health Care Coverage for People with Disabilities

Author: Angel L. Miles, PhD

*This is the third blog in a series about the Illinois Healthcare Affordability and Feasibility Study mandated by the Illinois Healthcare Affordability Act. Previous blog posts in the series can be found here and here

By prohibiting discrimination of people with pre-existing conditions, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded medical coverage for people with disabilities throughout the nation who were previously uninsured or underinsured. In spite of these strides towards ensuring all Americans have adequate health care coverage, significant gaps in insurance coverage and quality of care remain. The upcoming release of the Healthcare Affordability Feasibility Study conducted by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services and the Department of Insurance will provide some opportunities to improve access to affordable coverage. Protect Our Care Illinois (POCIL) firmly believes state lawmakers and administrators must use the ideas generated from the study to expand affordable coverage. Furthermore, any improvements in health care coverage must prioritize the needs of people with disabilities given the disparities that exist in coverage for this community.  

According to an IDPH report, disabled adults make up one of the largest and most diverse groups in Illinois, representing 22 percent of the population. Although people with disabilities are far more likely to have medical insurance coverage and higher rates of health care utilization than people without disabilities, they face significant barriers to receiving quality, affordable and accessible care. Nearly 21 percent of Illinoisans with disabilities reported avoiding visits to the doctor because of cost compared to 10 percent of those without disabilities. Furthermore, the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) found that adults with disabilities are almost twice as likely as nondisabled adults to report unmet health care needs due to problems with accessibility. A different study from the Urban Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation similarly reported that compared to nondisabled adults, adults with disabilities are about three times more likely to report unmet health care needs because a medical provider would not accept their medical insurance compared to other insured adults without a reported disability. Clearly, people with disabilities are a health disparities population.

Adults with disabilities have higher rates of unemployment, underemployment and poverty. In the state of Illinois specifically, 26 percent of working age people with a disability live below the poverty line, compared to approximately 12 percent of working age people without a disability and just 35 percent of Illinoisans with disabilities are employed compared to 76 percent of people without disabilities

Despite this economic disadvantage, people with disabilities tend to have more out-of-pocket health care costs than people without disabilities. One study found that compared to their nondisabled counterparts adults with disabilities fill more than five times as many prescription drugs, with mean prescription expenditures nearly seven times higher ($4,006 vs $599).

Accessibility and affordability barriers to health care contribute significantly to health disparities within the disability community. Adults with disabilities are four times more likely to report that their health is fair or poor compared to adults without disabilities. This issue is compounded by race. For example, one study found that about 50 percent of Latinx and Black people with disabilities rated their health status as fair or poor, compared to 42 percent of non-Hispanic, white individuals with disabilities. Research suggests that racial and ethnic minorities with disabilities are more likely to report that they are in fair or poor health, obese, have a chronic health condition, and have greater difficulty accessing care than do racial and ethnic minorities without a disability. 

These findings are especially concerning considering that people with disabilities who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color have the highest rates of disability in the country. In Illinois the disability rate by race is approximately 8 percent for white working age adults, 14 percent for Black/African American working age adults, 16 percent for persons who are Native American, 3 percent for persons who are Asian American and 8 percent for people who identify as some other race. Factors contributing to higher rates of disabilities in Black and Indigenous communities include higher rates of poverty, less access to quality health care, higher likelihood of participating in dangerous jobs and other risk factors associated with social determinants of health.

Adults with disabilities also face unique attitudinal barriers to care, as reflected in The Urban Institute’s Health Reform Monitoring Survey which found that about 24 percent of adults with disabilities reported experiencing disrespectful treatment or felt judged unfairly compared to just 8 percent of the general population.

Despite the massive inequities that people with disabilities experience in the state of Illinois and throughout the nation, there remains a pervasive belief that people with disabilities cannot achieve a state of health and wellness and that when they exhibit poor health it is solely an unavoidable and natural outcome of disability, rather than an outcome of systemic inequality based on disability status. This assumption masks how institutional barriers and biased practices contribute to health disparities for people with disabilities. Health care policy, research and practice must challenge disability bias by responding to the real structural, financial and cultural barriers that people with disabilities experience when trying to access care. These barriers include limited availability of accessible health care facility structures and equipment, limited staff training and restrictive health care policies and practices that do not take into account the full spectrum of diversity of people with disabilities and their needs. 

Future Illinois health care reform must consider disability accessibility as a social determinant of health throughout plan design. It must explicitly state that the disability community is a population that experiences health disparities, prioritize closing these health gaps as part of its equity goals, and clearly outline how. Improve disability data collection by using standardized disability identifiers across surveys, including people with disabilities in general health research and increasing the amount and coordination of disability research. Illinois health care reform must establish health plans that ensure the services and facilities associated with them meet the needs of people with multiple types of disabilities and are compliant with the accessibility and nondiscrimination standards established by state and Federal laws, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the ACA. It must include home and community based services (HCBS) as a right not just a state “option,” ensure that health care plans and services adequately cover the full range of costs for HCBS, and the equipment and supplies associated with HCBS care such as complex rehabilitation technology, incontinence supplies, home modifications and more. Then and only then will people with disabilities in Illinois have equitable access to health care that can be considered feasible, accessible and affordable. To join us in this fight, sign up to receive our newsletter or consider joining the coalition.

Protect Our Care Illinois Responds to Gov. Pritzker’s 2021 Annual Budget Address

On Wednesday, February 17, Governor JB Pritzker delivered a combined annual Budget Address and State of the State virtually to constituents and members of the 102nd General Assembly. Protect Our Care Illinois (POCIL) was pleased to hear the governor’s praise of the frontline health care and social service providers working to ensure all residents have access to COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, shelter and nutrition support. We continue to mourn the death of over 20 thousand Illinoisans, who have lost their lives to the COVID-19 pandemic and are holding their loved ones in our hearts and minds.  

We commend Governor Pritzker on: 

  • His commitment to equitable vaccine distribution to address disparities in access and acknowledging the historical disinvestment in communities of color;  
  • Maintaining FY2021 levels of funding for state agencies’ services to individuals in need 
  • His desire to increase sources of revenue by implementing a progressive income tax in Illinois and closing corporate tax loopholes 

While we understand the state faces significant fiscal challenges in the coming years, we applaud the leadership of Governor Pritzker and his administration in ensuring that no one loses their Medicaid health care coverage in Illinois — especially in a pandemic. As lawmakers face the tough choices that will need to be made concerning the state’s budget, the coalition is dedicated to ensuring that the communities hardest hit by the pandemic aren’t further impacted by the hollowing out the state’s health and human services sector. The coalition stands in firm support of efforts to improve the Medicaid program in Illinois and making lasting changes to increase health care coverage and decrease the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs in Illinois.  

We urge the Pritzker administration to support comprehensive policy and program solutions that increase health care coverage, affordability and access for all Illinoisans. Specifically, people who are ineligible for health care coverage through the Medicaid program due to immigration status must be provided affordable, quality options for health care coverage. We also believe that telehealth expansions during the pandemic need to be permanent in private health plans, and that the next state budget must include funding for health care navigators. 

Additionally, POCIL is grateful that the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) has steps in place to make the pandemic telehealth coverage provisions a permanent benefit for Medicaid plans. We look forward to working with the Pritzker administration and legislative partners in the General Assembly to enact these budgetary priorities and continue to bring to life the vision of true health equity in Illinois. 

To What End?: Driving Down Costs of Prescription Drugs in Illinois

By: Timothy Jackson, Director of Government Relations, AIDS Foundation Chicago

Across every corner of Illinois — from Metro East, southern Illinois, and the Quad Cities to central Illinois, the suburban collar counties, and Chicago — families are being crushed by the rising costs of healthcare and prescription drugs. 

The skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs often places the life-saving treatments out of reach for those with chronic conditions. People living with cancer, HIV, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and other conditions pay thousands of dollars each month to stabilize their conditions to reach positive health outcomes. We know that when the costs of these life-saving medications far exceed the incomes of those who need them, Illinoisans are faced with making drastic decisions to ration doses or miss them altogether. The consequences of these decisions often contribute to health conditions worsening and results in unhealthy communities. 

As I stated earlier, the rising cost of prescription drugs is an issue that affects every sector of our state. Polling conducted across Illinois in early 2020 (pre-COVID) found that over half of Illinoisans reported experiencing a health care affordability burden and one in four ration or skip prescription medications due to high costs. Additionally, over 70 percent of Illinoisans indicated that the major reason for rising health care costs were related to drug companies charging too much money. When you break down this question across political affiliations, polling found that 67 percent of Republicans believe that drug companies charge too much money contrasted with 74 percent of Democrats. What’s even more troubling is that in nationwide polling, 9 in 10 U.S. adults are “very” (55 percent) or “somewhat” (33 percent) concerned that Big Pharma will use the COVID-19 pandemic to raise prescription drug prices.

Reigning in the cost of prescription drugs is not a partisan issue. This issue doesn’t just affect the rural communities of our state, the suburbs or the inner city of Chicago. This is an issue that requires wholesale reforms to bring the relief to Illinois families they need and deserve. Simply put, prescription drugs don’t work if you can’t afford them!

As we begin the discussions necessary to move our state forward on this issue, I am reminded of a March 2020 hearing of the Illinois House Prescription Drug Affordability & Accessibility Committee. The committee was debating whether the State should implement a Prescription Drug Affordability Board (PDAB) to review the costs of prescription drugs to make sure they are affordable. One member of the Committee that strongly opposed this measure indicated “to what end” would “barriers” be put into place to stifle innovation of the pharmaceutical industry. Although nearly a year has passed, I am still as dumbstruck by those comments as I was the day that they were initially uttered. Although this legislator took an oath to serve the people of Illinois, they were far more concerned about Big Pharma than they were their own constituents.

But it’s an interesting thought: to what end? To what end will we continue to see Illinoisans go without the prescription drugs they need to live full and healthy lives? To what end will we continue to see Illinois families have to choose between purchasing badly needed prescription drugs or paying their rent? To what end will we continue to see our neighbors not get the medical assistance and prescription drugs they require? To what end will we continue to sit idly by and allow Big Pharma to line their pockets at the expense of Illinois families who are left holding the bag of empty prescription bottles?

The late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated that “the time is always right to do what is right.” The time for action on common sense solutions to drive down the costs of prescription drugs and ensure access to quality health care coverage is now. As a state, it is our moral imperative to right these wrongs so that Illinois families aren’t having to make life and death decisions between buying the medications that will treat their illnesses or buying groceries for the week. 

Protect Our Care Illinois, a statewide coalition of health care advocates, providers, consumers and workers, is committed to meeting these challenges by supporting legislation that reduces health care costs for consumers. However, we are going to need your help! If you agree that the cost of prescription drugs are unsustainable and out of control, we encourage you to join in the coalition’s efforts to lower drug costs.

Because to what end do we continue to allow profits of Big Pharma to be valued more and take precedence over the people of Illinois? For those with chronic conditions, seniors, veterans, our children and the communities that often reside on the margins of our society, I sincerely hope that end is near.

Centering Race Equity in Vaccine Distribution & Health Care Affordability in Illinois

*This is the second blog in a series about the Illinois Healthcare Affordability and Feasibility Study mandated by the Illinois Healthcare Affordability Act. The first blog post can be found here. 

The disproportional impact of COVID-19 on people of color, especially Black and Latinx people in Illinois, highlights the systemic racism embedded in our health care system. Protect Our Care Illinois is dedicated to ensuring quality, affordable, and equitable health care for all Illinoisans regardless of race or immigration status. To achieve this vision, Protect Our Care Illinois demands equitable distribution of and access to the COVID-19 vaccine, as this is a key step in combatting the disastrous effects of the pandemic on our communities. 

Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) have worked diligently to prepare a vaccine distribution plan that prioritizes administering the limited supply of vaccine doses to the most at-risk populations first, including senior citizens and health care workers. However, the plan falls short in addressing how the state will ensure equitable access to people of color, especially Black and Latinx communities, and this must be improved immediately.  

If the differing rates of flu vaccinations among different races are any indicator, Black and Latinx people are less likely to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if offered. Why? Many reasons exist, but an unresolved history of both structural and sometimes interpersonal harm towards Black and Latinx communities perpetrated by the government and health care institutions has resulted in widespread distrust of the health care system. For example, 70% of Black people in a survey said they think the health care system treats people unfairly based on their race or ethnic background, compared to about 40% of white and Latinx people. Additionally, Black, Indigenous and People of Color are more likely to experience access related challenges such as geographic barriers, lack of transportation, or language barriers. A recent survey shows 53% of white people are willing to take the vaccine, compared to only 24% of Black people and 34% of Latinx people. As of mid-January 2021, data regarding the demographics of those who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine has not been released yet. 

The Governor’s office and IDPH must address the above concerns. Protect Our Care Illinois recommends the following: 

  • Implementing a communication plan to address vaccine hesitancy and medical mistrust among Black, Indigenous and people of color;  
  • Distributing vaccines based on zip code, as opposed to being based solely on the county or city level, to ensure that communities that have been segregated within cities and counties are able to access vaccines equitably; 
  • Creating mobile or pop-up locations to deliver COVID-19 vaccinations in those zip codes that have insufficient access to hospitals, pharmacies, medical centers, or clinic spaces;  
  • Requiring employers to provide paid time-off to receive the vaccine and recover from side-effects if necessary; 
  • Providing widespread information about how to access the vaccine for free; and  
  • Continuing to update the IDPH COVID-19 Vaccine Administration Data website with the most current, transparent, and detailed data, including, if possible, demographic information such as zip code, race, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability status of the population vaccinated. 

Ensuring equitable access to the vaccine is the first step in the long road to affordable and accessible care for all in Illinois. The Affordability and Feasibility Study currently being conducted by the Department of Health and Family Services (HFS) and the Department of Insurance (DOI) will provide Illinois legislators and administrators with ideas about how to lower health care costs. HFS and DOI agreed to conduct the study with a racial equity lens, centering the questions asked and recommendations provided in terms of the effect on people of color, especially Black people in Illinois. A group of consumers provided recommendations to HFS that included specific ideas to address both interpersonal and systemic racism in health care, such as:  

  • Providers who look like their patients;
  • Care that is geographically close to patients; 
  • Providers listening to patients, treating patients as the experts of their bodies; 
  • Translators available for multiple languages, including American Sign Language;
  • Protecting personal information and understanding that certain groups of people (for example, undocumented immigrants) may be hesitant to provide personal data; and 
  • Better understanding of provider networks and the health services covered by plans 

Protect Our Care Illinois is pleased that HFS and DOI are considering race equity in the affordability study and we will monitor the release and implementation of the study’s recommendations to ensure racial equity is promoted. Additionally, Protect Our Care Illinois thanks the Governor’s office and the IDPH for its willingness to receive recommendations on how to best distribute the COVID-19 vaccine, and centering race equity throughout the distribution process. Now is the time to act on the ideas suggested.  

To receive updates from Protect Our Care Illinois, sign up here. To join the coalition, sign up here

Protect Our Care Illinois Reflects on the Trump Administration

Four years ago, the future of health care access in the United States was in extreme peril. The incoming Trump administration’s harmful and pervasive anti-health care rhetoric put the future of the Affordable Care Act – and the health care of millions of Americans – in jeopardy, with no clear plan to help those who may lose access to coverage as a result of its dismantling.

In an attempt to combat the misinformation being spouted by the Trump administration about the Affordable Care Act and to hold elected officials accountable, more than 50 organizations united to form Protect Our Care Illinois, including lead agencies Access Living, ACLU of Illinois, AIDS Foundation Chicago, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, EverThrive Illinois, Health & Medicine Policy Research Group, Heartland Alliance, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Legal Council for Health Justice, SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana, the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, and Thresholds.

As the Trump administration sunsets and the incoming Biden administration rises to take its place, we hold fast to the hope that many of the wrongs and harms perpetrated against millions of our neighbors – especially those in low-income, immigrant, and LGBTQ+ communities – will be rectified in the coming weeks, months and years.

Protect Our Care Illinois is dedicated to seeing this work and healing through, just as we were four years ago. We invite you to join us on the journey to ensure every Illinoisan has access to quality, affordable, and equitable health care coverage.

Health Care Affordability Study: Why Illinois is Exploring More Coverage Options

Given the landscape of health insurance and health care costs in Illinois, the Health Care Affordability Act, effective July 7, 2020, mandated that the Illinois Department of Health and Family Services (HFS) and the Department of Insurance (DOI) conduct a Healthcare Affordability Feasibility Study. This study will research how the state can make insurance more affordable and accessible in Illinois by researching what other states do and considering options based on Illinois-specific data. The study will provide a report with an array of options to the Illinois General Assembly and the Governor by February 28, 2021, which can be used by legislators to guide decision-making regarding insurance policies in Illinois. 

Affordable and accessible health care has been a priority for Illinoisans for decades. Even with the financial assistance provided by the Affordable Care Act, premiums, deductibles and cost-sharing are still too high for many families. A recent survey reveals that uninsured Illinoisans cite high costs as the main reason for not having insurance. The burden of cost affects families of all income levels, but especially those with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty line. In fact, nearly 15% of people with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty line are uninsured in Illinois. Even for those with insurance, the cost of health care remains prohibitive for many people. In a 2020 survey of Illinoisans, 49% of respondents reported delaying going to the doctor, skipping the dentist, or choosing to not fill a needed prescription to help curb out of pocket costs. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the largest loss of employer-sponsored health insurance in American history. 186,000 workers in Illinois lost their insurance coverage when they lost their jobs in Spring 2020. 

Despite the advances in insurance coverage for many people as a result of the Affordable Care Act, problems persist in Illinois, including prohibitively high costs, insurance and service provider systems that are often narrow, confusing, and time-consuming to navigate, and increasing rates of uninsured children. Additionally, clear disparities exist in insurance coverage. In 2018, 5.8% of white people were uninsured, compared to 6.9% of Asian people, 8.3% Black people, 12.5 % of American Indian and Alaskan Native people, 13.5% of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander people, and 15.4% of Hispanic people. Immigrant communities often face an additional burden of lack of citizenship status as a barrier to accessing coverage. In 2018, 23% of documented immigrants and 45% of undocumented immigrants reported being uninsured, compared to 9% of U.S. citizens. Disparities also exist for people with disabilities, who are 4 times more likely to report their health to be fair or poor than people with no disabilities (40.3% vs 9.9%). Additionally, LGBTQQIA+ people are disproportionately affected but more research is needed to understand the gaps in coverage. Studies show that more LGB people became insured as a result of the ACA, but in 2016 about 10% of LGB people were still uninsured. Disparities persist for the transgender population as well. Transgender people are more likely to be uninsured than the general population, and more likely to have trouble using their insurance to access care

The Affordability Study provides a chance to learn about potential solutions. Member Organizations of Protect Our Care Illinois provided feedback to HFS and DOI about the study, both in the form of submitting written recommended guiding principles, as well as through hosting two listening sessions between community members and HFS and DOI. The feedback from participants of the listening sessions made it clear: dental and vision care should be included in any health care plan, the cost of prescription drugs are too high, provider networks for Medicaid are too small, and barriers to full coverage for immigrant communities are insurmountable. We need solutions. Meaningful access to comprehensive health care is paramount for Illinoisans across the state. Protect Our Care Illinois believes that everyone deserves access to equitable, affordable, comprehensive healthcare no matter their race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, income, ability, or immigration status. We also believe that health care coverage is a right – not a privilege – and will continue to push for new health care policies that move the state toward universal coverage.  We look forward to the results of the Affordability Study which will add to the conversation about health care in Illinois and lead us towards more affordable and accessible care.

To join us in this fight, sign up to receive our newsletter or consider joining the coalition. Stay tuned for more blogs related to the Affordability Study in the coming weeks!

Protect Our Care Illinois Condemns the Trump Administration’s Latest Attempt to Undermine Health Care Access for 70 Million Americans

For four years, the Trump administration has worked to undermine the health and well being of millions of Americans via harmful attacks on Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). With less than 65 days left in office, the current administration has continued its unprecedented assault on health care by issuing an interim final rule that permits states to make Medicaid budget cuts without losing enhanced federal funding. In essence, this rule enables state legislatures and Medicaid agencies to reduce or eliminate optional benefits (such as oral health care, substance use treatment, etc.), increase cost-sharing and premiums, and reduce benefit packages.

At a time where states across the country are experiencing dangerous surges in COVID-19 cases, we need increased access to comprehensive coverage, not less. This is simply another attempt of the current federal Administration to kick the can down the road and skirt their responsibilities to serve the dire needs of the American public. Their apathetic attempt to “support” state budgets through slashing health care is not only misguided, but ineffectual. Less coverage drives higher costs in emergency room visits, and increases uncompensated care leaving hospitals and taxpayers holding the bill. 

While Protect Our Care Illinois does not anticipate Illinois partaking in this abhorrent rule, we wholeheartedly and unequivocally denounce this guidance, which has the potential to jeopardize the health care of more than 70 million Americans. We also call upon our state elected leaders, including Governor Pritzker, to firmly and quickly denounce this latest attempt to undermine access to health care in the midst of a global pandemic, and demand the federal administration provide additional supports to states including increasing Medicaid federal match funds (FMAP) to 14 percent.

Although the interim final rule is effective immediately, public comments are being accepted through January 4, 2021. Protect Our Care Illinois encourages all Medicaid stakeholders to submit formal comments urging the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to rescind this harmful guidance and ensure all Medicaid coverage remains stable for all enrollees.

Biden / Harris Administration Signals Hope for Expanded Health Care Access, ACA Still in Jeopardy

With the election results finally declared official, we move from the unknown and onto what’s next. However, this is a bittersweet moment as the past days, weeks, and months have shined a bright light on the true character of our nation — one steeped in injustice and inequity, where racism, xenophobia, sexism, classism, and homophobia remain as cornerstones across states, systems, and beliefs. Nevertheless, we pick up the mantle and continue the relentless pursuit of just and equitable access to health care for all. 

Protect Our Care Illinois looks forward to the implementation of the Biden/Harris administration’s plans to expand access to quality, affordable health care to all Americans regardless of their race, immigration status, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic level. We will fight to expand, preserve, and reestablish protections for LGBTQ+ communities, low-income populations, and immigrants who have been abused and ignored for the past four years.

However, in spite of the incoming administration’s demonstrated commitment to health care expansion, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is still in jeopardy. In fact, the closeness of the election signals that not every American is driven by the values of racial equity, health equity, and justice for all.

While our nation has historically struggled to provide affordable and equitable health care, since it was signed into law in 2010, the ACA has been under attack. Protect Our Care Illinois will be focusing our efforts on the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS)’s November 10 oral arguments hearing in the Health Care Repeal lawsuit (California v. Texas), the culmination of a series of baseless attacks on people’s health care access that questions the constitutionality of the ACA. 

In the decade since its inception, the ACA has ensured access to health care for more than 22 million Americans, lowering the uninsured rate of both children and adults. Currently, almost one million Illinoisans receive coverage through the ACA (approximately 630,000 through the Medicaid expansion and nearly 300,000 through the Marketplace). Furthermore, the ACA has expanded access to preventive care and family planning services; established essential protections for Americans living with pre-existing conditions (including over 5.4 million in Illinois), and codified anti-discrimination laws protecting individuals’ rights to high quality accessible health care. 

Should the ACA be struck down, nearly 20 million Americans would be at risk of losing their health care coverage. The health care coverage losses would hit people of color especially hard, right as they are also having to face job losses due to the pandemic. The uninsured rate for Black people would dramatically increase and adults without a college degree could face major coverage losses, particularly those who are people of color.

To be clear, further expansion of health insurance is needed to achieve universal coverage. There were approximately 30 million people uninsured in 2019, and millions more lost their insurance coverage in the economic devastation resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately 900,000 Illinoisans were uninsured before COVID-19 and that number has climbed in the economic fallout. Denial of health coverage is an unacceptable, deadly health injustice. The incoming Biden Administration should work ambitiously with Congress to reach health insurance coverage for all such that health care is guaranteed as a human right.

While more is needed to ensure all Americans have meaningful access to equitable health care, the ACA has made significant progress on reducing health care inequities. Protect Our Care Illinois refuses to allow ANY reversal of the progress made on health insurance coverage and will continue to demand health care for all. We invite you to join us in the fight to protect our care. To join Protect Our Care, contact

Rushing Through SCOTUS Confirmation Risks the Health of Over 20 Million Americans

On November 10, 2020, the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) will hear oral arguments in the Health Care Repeal lawsuit (California v. Texas), a baseless attack on people’s health care access that questions the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

The late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was expected to use her vote in defense of the ACA. However, in light of her passing and the impending confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a well-known opponent of the ACA, Protect Our Care Illinois is gravely concerned for the future of the landmark legislation, which protects the health of millions of Americans, including those with pre-existing conditions. The stakes in Illinois could not be greater: patient protections, the Medicaid Expansion, subsidies that help working families, and federal funding are all on the line.

Before joining the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Coney Barrett:

  • Criticized SCOTUS’ 2012 ruling in favor of upholding the ACA’s individual mandate tax;
  • Condemned Chief Justice Roberts’s use of his vote to uphold the ACA; and 
  • Praised the late Justice Scalia’s dissenting opinion in King v. Burwell, a case in which SCOTUS deemed the ACA’s subsidies constitutional

In addition, Judge Coney Barrett is a staunch opponent of reproductive rights, does not believe in climate change and its impacts on health, and will not commit to a peaceful transfer of power

Protect Our Care Illinois stands in strong opposition to the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett.  We demand that no Supreme Court Justice confirmation occur before inauguration. It’s up to the people to decide. 

Join our efforts to save the ACA! Below are some ways that you can engage in this fight to protect people’s health care!

  • Ensure you’re making your voice heard by voting in the 2020 election and consider the future of health and health care of all Americans.
  • We encourage everyone who has been impacted by the ACA to share their story via social media using #SaveOurHealthcare and #ProtectILCare
  • Thank our elected officials for their tireless defense of the ACA, including: Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul (@KwameRaoul); Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin); and Senator Tammy Duckworth (@TammyforIL).

Join Protect Our Care Illinois’ ongoing efforts to defend the Affordable Care Act by contacting

The Legacy of Justice Ginsburg and Why We Must Protect the ACA.

Protect Our Care Illinois joins the millions of health care advocates mourning the recent loss of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In addition to being a champion for women, LGBTQ+ communities, and immigrants, Justice Ginsburg was a monumental figure in the fight for equitable, affordable health care coverage for all. 

As we look back on the legacy of Justice Ginsburg, we also look to the future. The Supreme Court will review the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) this November in the Health Care Repeal lawsuit (California v. Texas). Justice Ginsburg was anticipated to use her vote in defense of the ACA; now Protect Our Care Illinois joins health care justice advocates around the country to sound the alarm about what her vacancy means for the future of the ACA. In the midst of an increasingly severe public health crisis and the biggest economic downturn in recent history, the stakes could not be higher.

Since the passage of the ACA, over 20 million individuals, children, and families have gained access to comprehensive health care. In addition, the law has led to historic reductions in racial inequities in access to health care. Between 2013 and 2018, the uninsured gap between Black and white people closed by 4.1 percentage points and 9.4 percentage points between Latinx and white people. Both historical and contemporary U.S. policies, including welfare policy, disproportionately harm Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, as well as immigrants. The lack of universal health insurance coverage is very much a part of the racism and xenophobia expressed through policy [1], [2].

The law also pioneered meaningful access to health coverage including ensuring coverage for 135 million Americans with pre-existing conditions; the expansion of Medicaid eligibility for adults with low-incomes; required coverage of preventive services with no cost-sharing in private insurance, Medicare, and for those enrolled in the Medicaid expansion; and allowed young adults 26 and younger to remain covered by their parent’s health plan. The ACA also took radical steps to protect and expand the health rights of women, HIV/AIDS, and LQBTQ+ communities. Simply put, the law significantly moved the needle on accessible and equitable health care.

If the ACA is overturned over 800,000 Illinoisans could lose coverage, with over 600,000 adults losing coverage gained through Medicaid expansion, alone. Across the state, over 5.4 million people with pre-existing conditions could lose guaranteed coverage – including anyone who has tested positive and/or has been treated for COVID-19. Health plans could once again start imposing limits on lifetime coverage, routinely charging women and older adults more for care, and lift caps on out of pocket costs to consumers. 

While more is needed to reach equitable health care for all, the ACA made significant progress on reducing health care disparities. Protect Our Care Illinois refuses to allow the reversal of this progress. As health justice advocates we will continue to educate and activate our communities in opposition to the Health Care Repeal Lawsuit. 

Join our efforts to save the ACA! Below are some ways that you can engage in this fight to protect people’s health care!

  • We encourage everyone who has been impacted by the ACA to share their story via social media using #SaveOurHealthcare and #ProtectILCare
  • Thank our elected officials for their tireless defense of the ACA, including: Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul (@KwameRaoul); Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin); and Senator Tammy Duckworth (@TammyforIL).
  • Join Protect Our Care Illinois’ ongoing efforts to defend the Affordable Care Act by contacting