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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.

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.

POC-IL statement: We Call on Governor Rauner to Denounce Medicaid Work Requirements which are Cruel and Backwards Policy – Meant to Punish Low Income People

Yesterday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) announced that they will allow states to apply for waivers to allow work requirements for “able bodied” Medicaid recipients. This is a radical shift in CMS policy that creates a hostile environment to government assistance with health coverage. Such a move creates numerous barriers to accessing care, penalizes individuals who have lost employment or have difficulty securing consistent employment by denying them health coverage, and undermines the purpose of Medicaid all together: assisting low-income people to obtain medical services.

Requiring work for Medicaid eligibility further alienates people just trying to make ends meet by punishing them through removing access to health care. Common sense tells us that in order to work and thrive, you must be healthy; taking away access to medications and medical care will only make folks sicker and less able to work in the future. Moreover, nearly 8 in 10 non-disabled adults with Medicaid coverage live in working families, and most are working themselves. The vast majority of those who are not working have health conditions, often caring for children or other family members who are ill or have a disability, or are in school.

Many individuals with chronic health conditions gained Medicaid coverage through the Medicaid expansion and may not be exempt from the work requirement because they don’t meet the strict federal disability criteria despite conditions that prevent them from working. They face significant challenges and requirements that can lead to the loss of health care — with potentially serious health consequences; it has been proven that work requirements are not the way to address these challenges or bolster future employment.

There is no evidence that a work requirement increases long-term employment, reduces poverty, or promotes positive health outcomes. These policies just create red tape and one more hoop to jump through before individuals can see a doctor and receive care, harming their health and well-being. Not only that, our state government is already stretched thin and the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (i.e., our Medicaid agency) works hard to keep up with new technologies and systems that are constantly changing. But adding more bureaucracy is misguided and will only lead to more budget and backlog problems than we have now.

Protect Our Care Illinois calls on Governor Rauner to denounce this short-sighted and backwards policy and reassure low income people in Illinois that the state will not implement these cruel work requirements – but will instead continue to help meet the health needs of all Illinoisans so individuals can truly thrive without punitive strings attached.

The GOP New Year’s Gift to Constituents: A Tax Bill that Guts Healthcare to Finance Tax Cuts for the Wealthy

Last night, House and Senate Republicans rushed through passage of a tax bill that’s a gift to the wealthy at the expense of working and middle-class Americans. It’s an unpopular gift that our families will pay for, for generations to come. The tax bill increases the deficit by over a trillion dollars and guts the centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act by repealing the individual mandate, leaving 13 million more without health insurance, hiking premiums for millions more, and causing massive disruption in the healthcare marketplace. The damage doesn’t stop there. This bill places more than 55 million people who depend on Medicare for their health care at risk of losing access to critical health services through a potential trigger of an automatic $25 billion cut to Medicare.

This isn’t the victory we hoped for, but we left it all on the field. Protect Our Care Illinois partners around the state were tireless – you held statewide actions to protest this reckless bill and made thousands of phone calls to urge opposition by members of Congress. You dragged this fight out to the end and made it as painful as possible for them to betray their constituents. You should be proud of everything you did to fight for justice over the last few weeks, but know this fight is FAR from over. We know that healthcare will continue to be at risk in 2018.

Speaker Ryan and other Republican congressional leaders have now publicly stated they plan to pay for the $1.5 trillion in tax cuts by going after Medicaid, Medicare and other critical social safety net programs that hardworking Americans count on. Such reckless cuts would put children, older adults, people with disabilities and working families across the country at risk of losing care they need, and further erode our nation’s historic commitment to the basic health and well-being of all Americans.

We call on ALL Members of Congress to pledge that they will not seek to cut Medicaid, Medicare, or other safety net programs to offset these irresponsible tax giveaways. Should they decide to follow through on their pledge to gut the health and support programs that our communities depend on, Protect Our Care Illinois and our allies across the state will rise up to challenge and defend healthcare at every turn.