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

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

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

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

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

Jessica’s ACA Story

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

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

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

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

The coalition urged all Illinois residents to contact their Congressional representatives at, and ask them to oppose the legislation.

The American Health Care Act: fewer people covered, weaker protections, higher costs and deep cuts to Medicaid

Last night, House Republicans released their so-called replacement bill, the American Health Care Act, which would repeal broad parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and make radical and harmful changes to Medicaid that would result in millions of people losing their health care. It’s no wonder the bill’s drafters kept the content a secret as long as possible.

There is more information below on what the Republican bill does, but we need you to act now.

Call your Representative NOW, 202-224-3121 and demand that they stand strong in support of the ACA and do not vote to strip health care from millions.  Call the Capitol switchboard, 202-224-3121, and enter your ZIP code to find out who your Representative is. Click here to find out who your Representative is ahead of time.

Here is what you can say:

Hello, my name is _____ and I am a resident of Illinois. I am calling to demand that Representative ____ vote against repealing the ACA and cutting Medicaid funding. The American Health Care Act is not an adequate replacement that protects my care!

TAKE ACTION to #ProtectOurCare, Call your Representative at 202-224-3121

There are three Illinois Republican House Members on the two committees debating the bill this week. They need to hear from you, too!

House Ways and Means
Peter Roskam – CD 6 @PeterRoskam  (202) 225-4561

House Energy and Commerce  

John Shimkus – CD 15 @RepShimkus (202) 225-5271
Adam Kinzinger – CD 16 @RepKinzinger (202) 225-3635

New polling shows that more than two thirds of voters want to keep what works in the Affordable Care Act and fix what doesn’t, rather than repeal and replace the current law. Despite this, Republicans in Congress are rushing to vote on a bill that will:

  • Benefit the wealthy and healthy at the expense of those who are low-income and sick.
  • Make coverage less accessible and less affordable – including a 30% “sick tax” on people who have a break in coverage.
  • Increase out-of-pocket costs while eliminating many of the ACA’s benefits and consumer protections.
  • Make deep cuts to Medicaid and cap federal funding for the program – which will result in reduced access to coverage and benefits for seniors, people with disabilities and children and shift costs to states.

Since there is no scoring from the Congressional Budget Office, we don’t know how much this plan will cost or how many people will lose coverage because of it. Yet, tomorrow at 10 am EST, two key House Committees, Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce, will begin the “mark-up” of the bill, just 1 day after sharing their plan with the American people. (For reference: when the Affordable Care Act was passed in the 111th Congress, the bill was posted online for public review for 30 days before the first committee markup. In addition, the House of Representatives conducted 79 committee hearings and debates over a two year period.)

We deserve careful consideration of any changes to health insurance that will impact family’s lives, financial security, and access to health care. More importantly, we deserve the right to understand the proposed changes so that we can ask questions and share our concerns with those elected to represent us.

Illinois Groups Call on Elected Officials to “Protect Our Care,” Announce State-Based Coalition to Fight Health Care Repeal and Medicaid Caps

Contact: Dave Lowitzki
Campaign Manager
(c) 312-296-5802

[February 23, 2017] – Today, as Illinois Members of Congress are back in their districts, Protect Our Care Illinois, a statewide coalition of consumer health advocates and providers, call on elected officials to stop the dangerous path towards repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and dismantling Medicaid with no viable replacement.  The Protect Our Care Illinois Coalition, which launched its official online presence today, currently has over 50 members including lead agencies Access Living, ACLU of Illinois, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, EverThrive Illinois, Health & Medicine Policy Research Group, Heartland Alliance, Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Legal Council for Health Justice, SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana, the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law and Thresholds.

Despite public disapproval, congressional Republicans are rushing down a chaotic path that could take health coverage away from 30 million people – including 1.2 million Illinoisans — and raise premiums for millions more. “Repealing the ACA will not protect our care,” said John Peller, Protect Our Care Illinois Coalition member and President/CEO of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. “Instead it will diminish coverage for millions of people in Illinois and threaten the local economy.”  As Illinois grapples with an unprecedented budget crisis, repealing the ACA will result in a loss of 114,000 jobs in our state, a loss of $113.8 billion in business output between 2019 and 2023, and a loss of $2.0 billion in state and local taxes. Jobs loss would be felt across the economy and especially in rural areas, with 39,000 lost jobs in health care and 75,000 in other sectors during the first year of repeal.

The Congressional Republican plans for replacements and “repairs” don’t add up.

Every ACA “replacement” or “repair” proposal covers fewer services, for fewer people, at higher costs to the consumer. For example, the recent proposal from Congressional Republicans offers tax credits based on age and not income.  As a result, a 50-yr. old millionaire would receive the same tax credit as a 50-year-old low-wage worker. Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are another common element of Republican proposals. HSAs impose higher out-of-pocket costs and little help for moderate to low income families; instead HSAs merely allow wealthier people to shelter more of their income from taxation. High risk pools won’t help either:  prior to the ACA, high risk pools cost Ilinoisans with pre-existing conditions 150% more in premiums for plans with inadequate coverage and dangerous lifetime limits. These have all been tried before – they don’t work.

Protect Our Care Illinois coalition members demand that Illinois’ Congressional Delegation publicly oppose a repeal of the ACA and any Medicaid block grant or Per Capita Cap proposal. Both would rip care from millions and cause chaos through the whole health care system. Here’s what at stake for Illinois families if Congressional Republicans continue the path towards repeal:

  • Kids will lose free preventive services, like vaccinations and vision screenings
  • Seniors will pay more for prescription drugs due to the reopening of the donut hole
  • People with disabilities and chronic illnesses will lose protections against discrimination
  • Adults and children will lose protections against annual and lifetime limits.

Here are some of the stories of Illinois residents as told to the Protect Our Care Illinois coalition:

Jeannie from Chicago, IL:
I am a self-employed 63-year-old woman. I have “pre-existing conditions” and a chronic illness. Before the ACA, the only insurance available to me was very expensive catastrophic-type health insurance with extremely poor coverage and a sky-high deductible. Thanks to the ACA, not only can I get decent health insurance, but the ACA guarantees that basic health encounters such as wellness visits, mammograms, etc. are available to me at no cost. Thanks to the ACA, I was finally able to see a specialist and receive proper diagnosis and treatment for the conditions that are causing my chronic pain. I have no idea what I will do without the ACA.

Heather from Wood River, IL:
While I was in college, I was able to remain on my parent’s health insurance so that I could focus on school rather than a career path and college at the same time. I have a congenital birth defect as well, which without coverage, I would be hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Repealing the ACA without anything to help people with disabilities means that those of us suffering with preexisting conditions could die, or be forced into major debt.

Andrea from Anna, IL:
I was blessed to not have a lapse in coverage because my COBRA ran out in December 2013. I have a pre-existing condition and would be unable to work without medication and regular doctor visits. I have also had several hospital stays and emergency room visits since January 2014, which my insurance paid most of. The ACA is the reason I can work without trying to find a full time job with benefits. Without the tax credits to help pay premiums and coverage for my pre-existing condition I would once again be unable to get health insurance.

Individuals and organizations are encouraged to join the Protect Our Care Illinois coalition here:  And be part of the conversation on Twitter: @ProtectILCare and Facebook:

ACA/Medicaid Expansion Talking Points for Meetings with Conservative Legislators in Illinois

In-district meetings with elected officials will be critical in defending the Affordable Care Act (ACA), especially with Republicans who have voiced support for the ACA repeal. They need to know how the ACA repeal will impact their constituents. Below are some talking points to help you organize what to share. You certainly don’t need to touch on all of these points, but think of this as a menu for what could be helpful in speaking to a conservative lawmaker about the ACA.

Don’t vote to repeal the ACA without a replacement plan that provides comprehensive coverage for at least as many people as the ACA does

  • This is the most important message – make sure they know that is what you expect as a constituent
  • If on a relevant committee (Rep Roskam (IL-6), Rep Shimkus (IL-15), Rep Kinzinger (IL-16)), press them to oppose irresponsible ACA repeal plans in committee
  • Try to get a commitment on these points

The ACA is working for my program and those we serve

  • Mention any new staff you have been able to hire
  • Any new sites or programs you have been able to start
  • Any services your program participants can now access that they couldn’t before
  • Share how the new staff, sites, and services are lowering costs and aiding the economy
  • Share what the landscape was like for your program before the ACA and how it has improved post-ACA – emphasize that you don’t want to go back to the pre-ACA days

The ACA has helped real people in our communities

  • A program participant who has turned their life around thanks to the ACA
  • Someone who has had their life saved or avoided financial ruin thanks to the ACA
  • A friend or family member who benefited thanks to the ACA
  • Stories related to how the ACA is helping to combat the opioid epidemic

Repealing the ACA would harm my program and those we serve

  • Share any numbers or analysis you might have done on how losing ACA-related revenue would impact your program’s budget
  • Any expected layoffs or closures in the event of an ACA repeal
  • Impact on specific populations like seniors, people with disabilities, kids, women, or those struggling with mental illness or substance use disorders

It is irresponsible to repeal the ACA without a replacement plan available to the public

  • We are very concerned about what might replace the ACA, and so far, we haven’t seen a replacement plan
  • Governor Rauner and many other conservative Governors and Senators have expressed concern over repealing the ACA without a full replacement. Where do you stand?
  • We hear from participants and community members all the time about how they’re worried about what is going to happen
  • Why is the replacement plan not public? The public has a right to know what you’re proposing before you repeal what is currently working
  • Congress needs to be careful and thoughtful – you should not rush. The ACA only passed after hundreds bipartisan of hearings and almost a year of debate. It should not be undone in a matter of weeks.
  • The Marketplace will collapse without a viable replacement – even if repeal is delayed

Our sector can’t handle any further disruption after the Illinois budget crisis

  • Share how stretched thin you already are due to delayed payments, having taken out lines of credit, and other consequences of the two year state budget impasse

Helpful Rebuttals to Arguments for ACA Repeal or Medicaid Block Grants/Per Capita Caps

Advocates should be prepared to push back against likely criticisms of the ACA and certain conservative proposals. This is critical so that lawmakers who state such talking points feel the pressure and discomfort with their current proposals from their constituents. We want them to think twice about towing the party line and want to hold them accountable when they state misleading points.

Don’t worry – we will replace the ACA with something terrific

  • Press them on the specifics of the plan – will it cover the same number of people? Will people get the same or more financial support? Will current enrollees keep their coverage? Will it cover the same services?
  • There is much talk about reducing costs, but reducing costs for whom? Will costs for low and moderate income beneficiaries go down? How will that be achieved?
  • Get them to explain how the replacement plan would impact your programs

We will retain the popular parts of the law, like prohibiting pre-existing condition discrimination, prohibition on annual and lifetime caps, and other insurance regulations

  • Press them for how they propose to keep the popular parts without the individual mandate. Other states have tried that and it has not worked. How do they plan to keep these requirements and still keep costs down?
  • They may mention requiring people to have ‘continuous coverage’ in order to qualify for insurance with a pre-existing condition. Continuous coverage means you cannot go without insurance, which is very difficult for low income families or people who experience a crisis like job loss or sudden health needs.

The ACA is collapsing on its own

  • Medicaid expansion is working great for our program and those we serve
  • Over one million people have gotten insurance through the ACA – about 650,000 in Medicaid and 350,000 on the Marketplace
  • More people have signed up on the Marketplace this open enrollment than ever before
  • The ACA needs improvement, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Why not just improve it? Repair the ACA rather than causing all this chaos.

Costs are spiraling out of control

  • Repealing the ACA will not help rising health care costs, which have been increasing for years – long before the ACA
  • The ACA has actually helped slow the growth of health care costs
  • Most of our program participants and neighbors with ACA coverage are on Medicaid or receive a subsidy, making coverage affordable

Don’t worry – the repeal is delayed

  • A delayed repeal will cause chaos – how can we plan for the future? How will the uncertainty affect the economic growth?
  • The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the non-group insurance market will likely collapse without a replacement, even if the repeal is delayed, leading to 18 million people losing coverage nationwide the very next year and premiums spiking after that

Medicaid expansion is crowding out the ‘truly needy’

  • Access to care for Medicaid enrollees has not diminished since Medicaid expansion – in fact, it has improved as providers have been able to invest in new staff and facilities thanks to Medicaid expansion dollars
  • Many who qualify under Medicaid expansion are truly needy. Most individuals experiencing homelessness and many of those struggling with severe mental illness or addiction qualify under Medicaid expansion.

Medicaid expansion has caused waitlists for seniors and people with disabilities

  • Waitlists have existed for many years and are actually increasing at a slower rate since the ACA was passed than they had the previous decade
  • Waitlists in Illinois are caused by insufficient funding of our home and community based services programs. Without Medicaid, this funding deficit would be much worse.
  • Access to nursing homes and home and community based services for seniors and people with disabilities is not limited by the Medicaid expansion population – it is limited by state funding and eligibility requirements. The infusion of federal dollars from Medicaid expansion has helped the state avoid further waitlists and restrictions.

Block grants will give the state needed flexibility in its Medicaid program and control costs

  • Governor Rauner has so far expressed concern about Medicaid block grants. Aren’t you concerned about how this could impact our state and our precarious budget situation?
  • All Medicaid block grant proposals and similar reforms would dramatically cut federal funding and shift costs to the states. This will harm my program and the state.
  • States need resources in order to be innovative and take advantage of any flexibility –how can we be innovative with significantly less money?
  • There is nowhere to reduce Medicaid spending further in Illinois. Medicaid spending has grown much more slowly that private insurance and Illinois has very low rates.
  • The Illinois behavioral health 1115 Medicaid waiver is very innovative and crafted under the current Medicaid structure. But it needs resources and Medicaid expansion to work!
  • Most of the flexibilities we’ve heard about are work requirements, waiting lists, and higher costs for Medicaid beneficiaries. The people we serve who depend on Medicaid will have a hard time meeting those requirements because of their circumstances. What happens to them? They will likely end up in the ED, a hospital or institution, or jail if they go without care.

Why the ACA is Important to Me

Joyce from Chicago (Congressional District 1):

My mom is currently covered under Medicare. She is going blind in one eye and recently moved back to Illinois. I remembered that a Navigator signed her up last year and called to see if he could assist her again. He was able to help my mom sign up for Medicaid and QMB. He was able to give her a number for a local social security office to assist her in signing her up for disability. I was very grateful that he was able to assist her in a timely manner. We really need individuals like this gentleman who are very knowledgeable and genuine.

Janette from Chicago:

My husband and I are examples of people who are hard working and reasonably healthy, who benefited from Obamacare, and who have paid for full price coverage for ourselves ever since we enrolled. I am a psychotherapist and I treat people with PTSD, anxiety, and depression. My husband Bill has been a musician, singer, and music teacher for almost 30 years. We are both paid by the hour and do not have a salary or benefits. Obamacare was a lifesaver for our family, including Bill’s adult children, who we were able to cover under the new law. I can’t say how amazing it was to know that we could enroll without fear of denial of coverage for preexisting conditions or the age of my step children.

After the election, we were afraid we would lose our benefits. At the last minute we were offered health care benefits through my husband’s job. When I found out, I cried with relief to know we will have something more stable that cannot be used as a political tool. We are talking about life or death situations here. I have epilepsy and my husband has hypertension. Both are well managed. What would we do without the security of health care? It strikes me as horribly ironic that I could spend my work week in service to those among us who are traumatized, suicidal, depressed and anxious, and yet have my own ability to receive health care be threatened constantly and even taken away. What kind of people would do this to a whole population, knowing how disastrous the results will be?

Emily from Chicago:

Right after finishing my masters in 2010, I had to move back home to live with my parents because I couldn’t find a job in my field. Working part time in retail, I would never have been able to afford a good healthcare plan and make my student loan payments, car payments, car insurance payments, and pay for my other living expenses without the ACA. And even after I got a full time job in my field–a two year fellowship at a liberal arts college–the pay was not great, so with all my other expenses, I still would have had to drop health insurance so I could eat, pay rent, and get to work. The ACA allowed me to stay on my parents’ insurance policy until I was 26, and because of that I could afford to eat and go to the doctor and get my prescriptions filled. Moreover, because of the mandated coverage of birth control, I was able to get an IUD. My previous birth control medication had given me high blood pressure, and after the ACA I was able to get to an IUD, which is not only long lasting and less expensive long-term but also is most effective form of birth control you can be prescribed. The device and procedure costs at least $600 up front, and without mandated insurance coverage, I could not have afforded to get an IUD. With the insurance mandate, getting an IUD was completely covered. I owe my normal blood pressure, my ability to choose when and if to have children, and my ability to continue to work in the humanities to the ACA. Without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today–in a PhD program, pursuing my dream.

Gregory from Chicago:

My father was a teacher in New York City, and my family had group health insurance through the NYC Board of Education. After my brother and I finished college, we were on our own. I worked in a print shop and then the restaurant industry, but received no insurance. Eventually, a friend of mine convinced me to buy private insurance through the open market, which I did until I went to law school, got married, had kids and was on my wife’s health insurance through her job. After law school, I got a full time job which provided insurance. It was good insurance, but we had to pay more than $1000/month for it. By then, my wife was running a preschool, which was too small to provide insurance. When I lost my job, we lived without insurance for a few months, and then bought private insurance. But since I had had a gap for the first time in more than 20 years, the coverage was minimal and very expensive, and I was accused of having a pre-existing condition and denied future coverage permanently for a very minor ailment for which I had received treatment only twice. When the ACA began, we signed up immediately. If the ACA was eliminated, even though my wife works full time and I run a nonprofit organization, we would have to go back to buying insurance on the private market. We would be subject to unregulated pricing and reduced care. Our children would not have near the same quality of health care that we had when we were children. The costs would be outrageous. It is a national disgrace that health coverage is tied to employment in this country rather than living citizenship. And it is a national shame that we allow the insurance industry — which posts record profits with executives bringing home 8-and-9 digit annual salaries — to dictate our healthcare system.

David from Chicago:

I’m in the field of higher education- I work hard but have faced worsening job quality and increased job instability. Although I have taught a lot as a writing instructor and lecturer at the University of Chicago and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, neither has provided me with health insurance. The Affordable Care Act has not only provided me with quality, affordable care, but also given me peace of mind in this difficult time as I look to transition careers. I don’t know what I’d do without this safety net, especially if I ever face rocky employment again. If the ACA and my Marketplace plan were taken away and I got sick without insurance, I don’t know if I could ever get coverage again. I thought we were past those days for good.

Laura from Chicago:

In 2008, while I was living in Japan for work, I had a blood sugar test done that showed abnormal sugar levels. When I came back to the U.S. for grad school, I got an Aetna insurance policy as a student. I wanted to get a diagnosis for my high blood sugar, but before I even received one from a doctor, Aetna had already declared that I had a pre-existing diabetic condition. Because my previous insurer had been the Japanese health care system, I did not meet the minimum continuous coverage requirements and was prevented from getting the care I needed for a year- I couldn’t get my blood tests, test strips, or medication covered for 12 months even though I had insurance and paid my premiums every month. I was so relieved when the ACA passed because I thought no American, including me and my family members, would have to face this situation again. My sense of security has only lasted a few years, though, because of threats to repeal the ACA. I’ve seen the kind of care another country can provide for an affordable price. Repealing the ACA will take us backwards in so many ways. If every other first world country can figure it out, so can America.

Abisola from Chicago:

I am pregnant and on a Visa. I was able to apply for a Medicaid at a Federally Qualified Health Center to help pay for doctor visits and with the delivery of my baby.

Joslyn from Chicago:

I had coverage for myself through an employer, but my daughter did not. I was told by the doctor that she had been going to for years that they no longer accepted Medicaid. I went to see a navigator and they assisted me in signing my daughter up for AllKids. The navigator called the doctor and found out they started accepting Medicaid again. I was very relieved and thankful for the assistance of the Navigator- now I know that my daughter will still be able to go to the doctor that she has been seeing she was born.