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Action Alert: Demand Congress Supports Medicaid

In Illinois, over 204,000 essential and front-line workers are enrolled in Medicaid. Medicaid is a lifeline for millions of people, especially as COVID-19 case counts spike and unemployment continues to plague our communities – especially our BIPOC communities as they face astoundingly higher death and infection rates and job losses than white people.

CALL YOUR SENATORS TODAY at (202) 224-3121 to demand Congress supports Medicaid by:

  • Increasing federal Medicaid funding by 14 percent, including funding for Medicaid expansion populations; 
  • Continuing the Maintenance of Effort (MOE) to prevent people from getting kicked off of Medicaid during the public health emergency; and 
  • Opposing any efforts by the Administration to undermine Medicaid, especially the implementation of the harmful Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Rule (MFAR).

As the Senate continues to negotiate the latest COVID-19 relief package, Illinois’ ability to ensure access to health coverage for low income individuals, children, and families hangs in the balance. 

Congress MUST increase federal funding for Medicaid to protect families’ health and financial well being, while continuing the Maintenance of Effort (MOE) established in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to protect those enrolled in Medicaid from losing their coverage during a public health crisis. 

Protect Our Care Illinois Condemns the Trump Administration and its Allies in State Government Still Pursuing Their Health Care Repeal Lawsuit in the Midst of a Pandemic

Today, the House of Representatives will vote on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Advancement Act. Also referred to as the ACA 2.0, the bill aims to strengthen the current law through provisions such as making coverage more affordable; investing in consumer outreach, education and enrollment; creating incentives to expand Medicaid for the 14 states who have yet to do so; expanding Medicaid postpartum coverage to 12 months; negotiating lower prescription drug prices and restoring Medicaid coverage for select migrant individuals lawfully residing in the United States.

This bill serves as a promising starting point to shore up the ACA and meaningfully strengthen and increase access to comprehensive affordable health care during a global health crisis. It also is a stark reminder that the current administration is actively trying to do the exact opposite by consistently undermining existing protections and advances in ensuring Americans have health care. 

ACA 2.0 was introduced at nearly the same time opponents of the ACA filed briefings with the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) in their ongoing attempt to repeal the law and strip care from over 23 million individuals and families, which is even more dangerous now that we are in the midst of a pandemic and economic crisis. It also comes on the heels of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) releasing their final rule amending the civil rights provision of the Affordable Care Act (Section 1557), effectively rolling back federal protection from discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, individuals living with HIV, non-English speakers, and women. 

Protect Our Care Illinois remains disappointed, sickened, and repulsed by this administration’s incessant attempts to decimate the health of our communities, particularly Black and Brown communities. This is even more concerning in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted Black and Brown communities. Instead of pursuing a lawsuit designed to take health care away from people who need it, the Administration should be, at the very least, opening ACA Marketplaces so people can enroll in coverage today.

We will continue to defend the ACA and commit to work that increases truly equitable access to care and comprehensive services for every single Illinoisan.

Statement: racial justice is health justice

This past weekend, the long-standing reality of deep oppression and injustice for Black communities has become front and center on the national stage. Protect Our Care Illinois stands with Black communities across the state, and lifts their efforts to demand justice so they are afforded the basic rights of existing without fear and obtaining equitable access to high quality services that ensure basic needs are met – including health care, nutrition, and housing. 

It is impossible to parse out structural racism and systemic injustice from health outcomes for Black communities. In Illinois, Black individuals account for 43% of COVID-19 related deaths while making up only 15% of the state’s population.  Also, the same broad-sweeping structural racism that enables police brutality against Black Americans is also responsible for higher mortality among Black Americans with COVID-19.

We also must acknowledge the white supremacy in our culture, and the exhaustion and despair that our Black colleagues who are doing this work alongside of us feel. This weekend, like much of history, we have seen continued complacency focused on detracting from the realities of brutality against Black and Brown communities by way of shifting the narrative to cover property over people, doubling down on subversive messages like all lives matter, and designating labels like “thugs” to incite racist perceptions that diminish the extraordinary pain and suffering plaguing our Black neighbors working to lift their voices so that maybe this once, they will actually be listened to. 

We join the Opportunity Agenda for #JusticeOutLoud and call for leadership and justice from district attorneys, police chiefs, and all people with power or position to say enough is enough. It is time to address once and for all the white supremacist violence proliferating in America.We cannot be quiet or passive in this moment of anger and disbelief –  remaining silent is an act of compliance in the face of grave injustice.

While we continue to navigate both the pandemic and demands for justice, we must declare beyond the shadow of a doubt,  that racial justice is health justice. We cannot call for one without demanding the other. Protect Our Care Illinois wholeheartedly and unequivocally stands with our Black neighbors and communities in pursuit of a just and equitable society. In our fight for equitable access to health care for all Illinoisans, we implore our local and state leaders to acknowledge that police brutality is a public health crisis. Our leaders must take immediate and decisive action for just reform so that our Black and Brown neighbors are afforded not only the basic right to live without fear of brutality, but so our state systems are equipped with the voices, knowledge, and tools to aggressively weed out injustice and inequity.

Protect Our Care Illinois sends letter to federal CMS demanding care

In the ongoing effort to demand equitable access to high quality health care for all Illinoisans, Protect Our Care Illinois has drafted a letter calling on federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to adopt additional policies to expand access to affordable health care during the COVID-19 crisis.

The letter below, signed by over 30 advocates, has been sent to CMS, the IL Congressional Delegation, the Governor’s office, and the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS).

Letter to CMS:

“On March 1, 2020, President Donald Trump declared the health crisis caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) a national emergency with the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic ten days later. As of the date of this letter, there are more than 243,000 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases nationwide with over 7,700 cases here in the state of Illinois that has taken the lives of 157 Illinoisans. Unfortunately, federal health officials note that the number of infections and deaths associated with COVID-19 will grow exponentially in the coming days and weeks. The gravity of this global health emergency presents an array of significant challenges that is imperative we address.

As a coalition of organizations and individuals committed to health equity, Protect Our Care Illinois is very concerned about how individuals and communities across the state will access the medical care necessary to combat COVID-19. We are additionally alarmed by the millions of Americans that will lose their health insurance due to COVID-19 related employment layoffs, closures, and terminations. We strongly believe that, during these tumultuous times, we should be ensuring that all Americans are able to get the critical medical care that they need and deserve.

Considering these challenges, Protect Our Care Illinois believes that the following policy priorities should be adopted immediately:

  • Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service (CMS) should alleviate existing barriers to individuals applying for Medicaid that may not have been addressed in the previous Section 1115/1135 waivers, including addressing lack of access to the online application for individuals without access to a computer during the federal emergency. Specifically, we ask that CMS allow Illinois to enable individuals to “sign” a Medicaid application via an assistor (e.g., an individual at a community-based organization that provides application assistance, whether or not they are a certified application counselor) without being physically present with that assistor during the federal emergency;
  • Ensure all COVID-19 treatment is covered with no out of pocket costs to the consumer. Although testing is currently covered, additional costs remain, such as those related to copays, hospitalization, and physical therapy related to COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment;
  • We strongly urge the Administration to reconsider their position and follow the example of nearly every state with a state-based marketplace, and enact a special enrollment period for 90 days with the possibility for an extension as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. This must happen to allow uninsured and underinsured residents to enroll in health coverage through the federal health insurance exchange;

In addition, we request that any new coverage obtained on the federal Marketplace through a special enrollment period be in place as soon as possible.

  • Adjust financial assistance for current Marketplace enrollees. Cost of coverage remains a barrier for many people, and even those who have coverage will be reluctant to seek testing and care, if they face a prohibitive cost-sharing burden. The federal government should temporarily boost advanced premium tax credits (APTC) for all eligible to no less than the lowest cost Bronze plan for the remainder of the calendar year.

Although not an exhaustive list, we believe that these policy recommendations will go a long way to guarantee that the most vulnerable in our communities do not fall through the cracks during this global pandemic. We look forward to working with the President’s administration, CMS officials, and elected officials on Capitol Hill and in Springfield to address the challenges posed by COVID-19. As a coalition we remain steadfast in our commitment that all Illinoisans should have access to quality affordable health care.”

Statement: Protect Our Care Illinois disappointed by committee vote on HB3493


Springfield, IL (March 4, 2020) – Today the Protect Our Care Illinois (POCIL) Coalition released the following statement: 

We are disappointed by the outcome of today’s committee vote on HB3493, a bill to empower consumers by creating a Prescription Drug Affordability Board, an independent state board to review increasing drug prices and put a check on the unbridled power of big Pharma.

Recent polling data conducted in Illinois shows over half of Illinoisans reported experiencing a health care affordability burden and one in four ration or skip prescription medications due to high costs. Over eight in ten adults in Illinois said that they want the government to take decisive action, including establishing a Prescription Drug Affordability Board.

The people of Illinois have made it clear that they need common sense solutions that release them from the nocuous compromise between affording prescription drugs or other basic needs. Today the inaction of members of the General Assembly spoke volumes by denying the people of Illinois access to affordable prescription drugs. It’s simple: prescription drugs don’t work if you can’t afford them! 

Protect Our Care Illinois will continue to elevate the stories of hard working Illinoisans who cannot afford their life saving medications. We are dedicated to working alongside the champions of this issue to ensure all Illinoisans have access to the medications they need to live full and healthy lives.

Press release: new survey shows Illinoisans experiencing health care affordability crisis

SPRINGFIELD– A majority of Illinoisans have difficulty affording health care and prescription drugs according to a new Consumer Healthcare Experience State Survey (CHESS) commissioned in January 2020 by Protect Our Care Illinois and Altarum’s Healthcare Value Hub, with the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The survey found that over half (56 percent) of Illinois adults experienced healthcare affordability burdens in the past year and four out of five (81 percent) are worried about affording healthcare in the future. For most respondents, addressing the high cost of healthcare is their top priority for policymakers and, across party lines, they express strong support for government-led solutions.

The survey results were announced today in Springfield by Lynn Quincy, Director of the Healthcare Value Hub. She was joined by State Rep. Will Guzzardi, Senator Andy Manar and advocates from Protect Our Care Illinois. The legislators also unveiled new legislation to tackle some of the issues raised in the poll, including a new state board that would review data on drug prices and set new payment limits for state-regulated plans.

“This new consumer health survey confirms what we have known for a while: people in Illinois are being crushed by the cost of health care and prescription drugs and they are looking to state government to address this huge issue. We have to do something now to provide relief to Illinois families,” said Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago who chairs the House Prescription Drug Affordability and Accessibility Committee. “When it comes to tackling drug costs, 86 percent of survey respondents endorsed the creation of Prescription Drug Affordability Board to examine the evidence and establish acceptable costs for drugs– and I’m committed to bringing that type of oversight to Illinois.”

“These findings signal the degree to which the prescription drug industry is failing to serve the health of patients, while those responsible face zero consequence,” said Senator Andy Manar, D-48. “It puts the onus on every legislator to be a part of a solution that delivers serious transparency and accountability to an industry besieged by profiteering and exploitation of working families.”

CHESS is designed to elicit respondents’ unbiased views on a wide range of health system issues, including confidence using the health system, financial burden and views on fixes that might be needed. The survey used a web panel from Dynata, January 9 – January 17, 2020, resulting in a demographically balanced sample of approximately 1,047 adults 18 and older who live in Illinois. More information about methodology can be found in the report.

“Our current prescription drug pricing system is broken and, as it operates today, cannot deliver medications that all Illinoisans can afford. Prescription drugs don’t work if you can’t afford them,” said Logan Charlesworth, Protect Our Care Illinois coalition manager. “We need to allow Illinoisans to focus on getting healthy rather than allowing them to dangle on the precipice of health and financial ruin because they cannot afford their medications.”

Additional key findings include:

  • Nearly half (49 percent) of adults who needed health care in the prior 12-months encountered one or more cost-related barriers to getting the care they needed.
  • Over half (54 percent) of all survey respondents reported being either “worried” or “very worried” about affording the cost of prescription drugs. More than a quarter of respondents (28 percent) cited cost concerns as the driving factor for not filling a prescription or cutting pills in half.
  • Of the adults sampled in the survey, those who live in Greater Illinois (outside of Cook and the Collar Counties) experienced the highest healthcare affordability burden (59 percent) compared to the rest of the state.
  • Over one-third (35 percent) of Cook County adults got the care they needed but struggled to pay the resulting medical bill and 12 percent were unable to pay for necessities like food, heat, or housing.

Protect Our Care Illinois calls on the Governor and legislator leaders in the General Assembly to make health care affordability a priority during this legislative session.

To read the reports, visit:

Learn more about the Prescription Drug Affordability Board here.


About Protect Our Care Illinois

Protect Our Care Illinois is a statewide coalition of health care advocates, providers, consumers, and workers, joining together to prevent the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), prevent disastrous changes to Medicaid, and protect and expand access to quality affordable health care.

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

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker delivered his annual Budget Address to a joint session of the General Assembly yesterday afternoon. Protect Our Care Illinois was pleased to hear the governor’s continued dedication to building a health care system that is equitable, accessible, and affordable for all Illinoisans.

We commend Governor Pritzker on:

  • His commitment to ensuring quality health care will be accessible to all Illinoisans via the revival of the Navigator program;
  • Adding 100 new employees to the Department of Human Services to reduce the Medicaid redetermination backlog;
  • Increasing the state budget for mental health and addiction treatment services by $40 million;
  • His leadership to protect hardworking families across the state via the Fair Tax amendment; and
  •  Maintaining family planning funding.

What was left out of the budget, however, shows that our state still has significant work ahead in order to achieve a truly equitable health care system for all people in Illinois. Specifically, people who are ineligible for healthcare coverage due to immigration status must be provided affordable, quality options for healthcare coverage in order to continue to move towards a more equitable healthcare system in IL for all people. In addition, by expanding Medicaid coverage to 12-months postpartum for all women, Illinois can make significant progress toward reducing maternal mortality and morbidity. 

We look forward to working with the Pritzker Administration and partners in the General Assembly to enact these budgetary priorities and continue to bring to life the vision of true health equity in Illinois.

Protect Our Care Illinois Coalition Condemns the Trump Administration’s Latest Attack on Medicaid

The Trump administration announced today a plan to allow states to change Medicaid funding to block grants — which would amount to a cut in Medicaid funding. The Protect Our Care Illinois coalition is opposed to this plan because if it were enacted here, it would drastically decrease health care access for people living in poverty who are among the most marginalized in our state. Medicaid block grants threaten healthcare access by cutting the funding of this life-saving health insurance program. Illinoisans cannot afford this attack on healthcare.

“The administration’s decision will gut access to services that keep those most in need, including people living with chronic conditions like opioid addiction and mental illness, from engaging in health care,” said Logan Charlesworth, Protect Our Care Illinois’ Coalition Manager. Medicaid covers 1 in 4 Illinoisans, and nearly one-third of Illinois’ Medicaid Expansion population is living with a mental health or substance use condition.

Additionally, all Medicaid block grant proposals and similar reforms would dramatically cut federal funding and shift costs to the states. This is an attack on people’s healthcare, and would harm Medicaid funding. Medicaid is a popular, 55-year-old program that provides health insurance to tens of millions of Americans.

The Trump administration’s Medicaid cuts would harm Illinoisans’ health, the stability of our economy, and the ability of state government to fund Medicaid and other priorities, like education and social services. Protect Our Care Illinois calls on our state elected leaders, including Governor Pritzker, to firmly and quickly denounce the Trump administration’s Medicaid Block Grants plan.

Gov. Pritzker signs SB667 to increase access to insulin

SB667 is an important first step on the path to addressing the skyrocketing prices of lifesaving medicines like insulin. The cost of popular types of insulin has tripled over the last decade, increasing the price of some by as much as 800%. SB667 will cap those costs at $100 for a 30-day supply, and require further study of prescription drug costs by the state Department of Insurance. We look forward to reviewing the Department’s findings.

The members of Protect Our Care Illinois want to thank the bill sponsors, Senator Manar and Representative Guzzardi, as well as Gov. Pritzker for his early support of the measure. 

Protect Our Care – Illinois is a statewide coalition of health care advocates, providers, consumers, and workers, joining together to prevent the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), prevent disastrous changes to Medicaid, and protect and expand access to quality affordable health care.  

Protect Our Care Illinois Denounces the Fifth Circuit Court’s Politically Motivated Decision in the Health Care Repeal Lawsuit

Protect Our Care Illinois denounces the decision of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Texas vs. US, which lays the foundation for the overturn of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and risks the health and well-being of millions of lives. The two Republican-appointed judges sided with President Trump and Republicans to declare a portion of the law unconstitutional and sent the rest back to the same handpicked lower court judge who has already ruled the entire law unconstitutional.

Despite this ruling, health insurance purchased on the Illinois Marketplace for 2020 coverage is still valid and protections for people with pre-existing conditions are still intact, for now. 

Health care is a top priority for Illinoisans; and yesterday’s ruling represents a major blow in the fight for access to comprehensive care that meets the needs and the budgets of everyday people. Now, at least 605,000 Illinoisans are at risk of losing their health coverage. Make no mistake – this politicized decision jeopardizes the health care coverage and peace of mind for the over 5 million people in Illinois who have pre-existing conditions.

Under the ACA, twenty million individuals have gained health care coverage nationwide – bringing uninsured rates to an all-time low. Moreover, the ACA established historic consumer guarantees and meaningful coverage of core health services, including:

  • Protections for people with pre-existing conditions 
  • Ban on annual and lifetime coverage caps for people who are chronically ill
  • No discrimination against women and seniors in insurance pricing
  • Ability for parents to keep their children up to age 26 on their insurance plan 
  • Required coverage of ten essential health benefits, including: mental health and substance use treatment, contraceptive coverage, maternity care, and prescription drugs

This health care repeal lawsuit represents the latest in a string of attacks on the ACA that jeopardize access to the high-quality care provided for by the Act’s provisions. Republican members of Congress have voted to repeal the ACA more than 50 times since it was enacted in 2010. Following multiple failed attempts to repeal, the Trump Administration began allowing insurance companies to expand the sale of short-term plans that fall short of meeting the quality standards required by the ACA. Additionally, the Administration has pursued actions that weaken the program, including shortening open enrollment, scheduling website maintenance during peak hours, and slashing funds for community assisters and marketing.  

Tragically, yesterday’s decision represents a turning back of the clock on the fight to expand health coverage, access to comprehensive care, and consumer protections. In the face of ongoing sabotage, Protect our Care Illinois will remain vigilant in defending the historic progress made possible because of the ACA. We are proud to support Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s defense of the ACA, and we are committed to standing with health care consumers, providers, and advocates across Illinois in support of accessible, comprehensive health care for all Illinoisans because safe, healthy individuals and families are the heart of vibrant, prosperous communities.