'A Strong State Based Health Insurance Marketplace Levels the Playing Field for Small Businesses'
(Springfield) - State Senator Dave Koehler and other Senators, along with members of the Campaign for Better Health Care's Small Business Health Care Consortium including Springfield small business owner Mark Burris, President Larry Ivory of the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce, and Linda Forman for the National Association of Women Business Owners Chicago convened today in Springfield to address the need for a state based health insurance marketplace in Illinois that offers strong protections for small businesses and consumers and accountability of the insurance industry, and expressed their support for Senate Bill 34 (SB34.)
Mark Burris of Springfield, the owner of MCCE Investments and owner of seven Subway Sandwich franchises, said "Small businesses need a level playing field and there must be checks and balances with the insurance companies."
Burris continued, " Financing of the health insurance exchange under SB34, Amendment 1 is through assessments of the insurers, as it should be.  The insurance industry will benefit from the tax dollars used to create the infrastructure of the how the exchange is set up.  It is only appropriate that they finance the day to day operations of the insurance health marketplace when an estimated one million new insurance customers will be purchasing private health insurance."
SB34 establishes a robust, pro-consumer and pro-small business health insurance marketplace in Illinois. The health insurance marketplace will be the one-stop insurance shop for more than a million Illinoisans. SB34 ensures that the marketplace is governed by a diverse board that represents women, small businesses, communities of color, labor, public health, people with disabilities, and consumers, and provides for accountability of the insurance industry selling plans on the new marketplace.

Speaking on behalf of the National Association of Women Business Owners Chicago (NAWBO Chicago), Linda Forman said, "The Small Business Health Care Consortium and NAWBO agree that who sits on the insurance exchange governing board is very important.  We believe that a statewide governing board will be better able to understand the needs of women and the diversity of backgrounds and geography of small businesses throughout this state if the governing board is composed of the types of people who will be using the health insurance exchange marketplace."
On November 16, 2012, the State of Illinois filed a "blueprint" with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  It stated that beginning January 1, 2014, Illinois would embark on a State-Federal Partnership Marketplace (exchange), and then a State Marketplace beginning on January 1, 2015.  For Illinois to embark on a State Marketplace the Illinois General Assembly must enact legislation establishing a state Governing Board, and the financing of the operations of a State Marketplace.  SB34 would fulfill this requirement and would establish an effective, fair, balanced and accountable marketplace.
"Having insurance companies go through a certification process that is open to the public and small businesses, in which they can be held more accountable for their accessibility to services, quality and most of all the prices that they charge, is long overdue," said Larry Ivory, President of the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce, an SBHCC member.  "Small businesses owners want a health insurance exchange marketplace that will be able to contain costs and be easier to understand."
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About the Small Business Health Care Consortium
As a project of the Campaign for Better Health Care, we are a tax-exempt, non-partisan coalition of small businesses that serves to educate about the impact of health reform, encourage small business friendly legislation and regulation and enable the collective voice of small businesses to have a direct impact on controlling health care costs in Illinois.  www.cbhconline.org/smallbusiness

About Campaign for Better Health Care
We believe that accessible, affordable, quality health care is a basic human right for all people.  The Campaign for Better Health Care is the state's largest coalition representing over 300 diverse organizations, organizing to help create and advocate for an accessible, quality health care system for all.  For more information, visit www.cbhconline.org.
Campaign for Better Health Care
Urge Governor to Sign Executive Order Implementing Illinois' Insurance Marketplace (Exchange)
Champaign, IL - The Campaign for Better Health Care today sent a letter signed by 109 diverse organizations throughout the state, representing over 2.5 million Illinoisans, to Governor Quinn calling on him to sign an Executive Order to implement Illinois' health insurance marketplace (exchange) immediately.  Illinois small businesses and Illinois families are tired of you waiting.  Illinois needs a state insurance exchange not a federal exchange.
"Now that the Supreme Court has upheld Obamacare, it is time for Governor Quinn to take action, and for the rest of political establishment get on board and work to make the Illinois Insurance Exchange the best one in the nation. We are tired of continuous political posturing in Springfield," commented Jim Duffett, Executive Director of the Campaign for Better Health Care.
Duffett continues, "the people of illinois have waited for two years for the General Assembly to take action in establishing an Illinois Insurance Exchange - they failed.  Now it is up to you to show the people of Illinois that your walk across Northern IL was not done in vain.  You must stand with small businesses and the consumers and not the insurance industry.  Any further delay will play in the hands of the insurance industry".
A major provision of Obamacare is that states must develop a competitive health care marketplace, or insurance exchange.  In Illinois, this marketplace will eventually enroll over 1 million Illinoisans.  Those that already have insurance they like and want to keep may never need to use the marketplace - but for those that do need to purchase insurance, the marketplace website will be fast and easy to use, and will let consumers make honest comparisons among plans to choose the ones that best fit their needs and budgets.  This marketplace will be a lifesaver for small businesses, sole proprietors, and the uninsured.
"Unfortunately, the Illinois General Assembly has chosen not to take legislative action this past legislative session, letting down  hundreds of thousands of uninsured Illinoisans, small businesses, and individuals, and jeopardizing their peace of mind," commented Jim Duffett, Executive Director of the Campaign for Better Health Care, the organization sponsoring the letter initiative.  Duffett continued, "This marketplace will provide access to health care - in turn providing security for families and strengthening the middle class.  Governor Quinn needs to show leadership and take action now."
Unless action is taken, Illinois will be unable to access over $200 million in federal funds available for the development and implementation of the new Illinois marketplace.
The letter states, "We believe Governor's Quinn's Executive Order must have built-in, well-defined principles and standards protecting Illinois consumers and small businesses.  This marketplace must serve the interest of the uninsured, small businesses, and consumers and not the financial interest of the insurance industry.  So much is on the line for making sure that the new Marketplace Governing Board is independent and free of conflict of interest.  Specifically:
  1. No insurance industry representatives on the governing board of the new marketplace, so as to avoid undue influence on the development or following of the rules for operating it;
  2. The board must have the right to negotiate with insurers and develop real cost containment measures;
  3. The insurance industry stands to gain over a million new customers from the development of the marketplace. Since they will profit from it, the financing of the marketplace should come from their massive reserves of over $30 BILLION dollars - not from taxing the small businesses and consumers.
"Health care reform has already proven to be morally, financially, and spiritually successful for millions of Illinoisans already.  The Illinois Marketplace will begin to provide health care access to a million other Illinoisans, a moral imperative.  The delay in moving forward is unacceptable.  We call upon Governor Quinn to show his moral committment to the people of Illinois by signing an Executive Order to establish Illinois' marketplace," said Rev. Dr. Moss III, Senior Pastor, Trinity United Church of Christ.

"Small businesses are the backbone of our economy.  Like all Illinoisans, we are working hard to keep our heads above water in this sluggish economy.  The cost of health care or lack there of is a major cost factor for us. We are anxiously awaiting the establishment of the marketplace, as it will have a strong positive impact on businesses and consumers. But we cannot wait until next session for the Illinois General Assembly to take action.  That is why we are urging Governor Quinn to sign an Executive Order now establishing Illinois' marketplace," stated Dan Callahan, owner of a small business, Gregg Florist in Peoria.
Once an Executive Order is in place, Illinois can begin moving forward and then the Illinois General Assembly will need to codify components of the Executive Order during the Fall Veto Session, after the November election.
Due to legislative roadblocks, the governors of both Rhode Island and New York have already issued Executive Orders to create the competitive health care marketplace in their states.  "We believe Illinois needs to follow these examples in putting our state on the right track towards ensuring access to quality, affordable health care for all Illinoisans," concluded Duffett.
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About the Campaign for Better Health Care
We believe that accessible, affordable, quality health care is a basic human right for ALL people.  The Campaign for Better Health Care is the state's largest coalition representing over 300 diverse organizations, organizing to help create and advocate for an accessible, quality health care system for all.  For more information, visit www.cbhconline.org.
New Benefits Will Protect Health Care Consumers, Increase Access, Improve Quality and Lower Costs for Young Adults, Kids, and People with Pre-Existing Conditions
CHICAGO - U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), HHS Regional Director Cristal Thomas, and Executive Director Bob Robinson from the Hemophilia Foundation of Illinois joined Executive Director Jim Duffett of the Campaign for Better Health Care today for a telebriefing to discuss the new set of benefits rolling out on Thursday from the recently enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care health reform law.  Also on the call was CBHC member Tim Fraas of Elgin, who currently faces a lifetime benefit cap following a heart transplant.
The new health reform law will save lives.  Without it, an estimated 9,400 Illinoisans would have died prematurely due to a lack of health coverage over the next decade.  Not any more.  With the provisions of the new law, 1,163,000 uninsured Illinoisans will gain insurance coverage by 2019.
On September 23, another set of benefits of the new health reform law takes effect.  "The reforms we passed in the groundbreaking health care bill have begun to take effect - curbing insurance company abuses that prevent people from getting the healthcare they need.  On Thursday, we are going to start seeing even more tangible benefits from this bill," said Senator Durbin.  "The provisions taking effect will give parents peace of mind by preventing insurance companies from denying children coverage because of pre-existing conditions.  The provisions will also ensure that patients aren't dropped from their insurance plan when they get sick and will lower health care costs by emphasizing prevention and healthy lifestyles."
"Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, we have begun to create a more competitive, consumer-friendly healthcare marketplace, to crack down on the worst insurance company practices, and to provide real benefits to the people of Illinois," said Director Thomas. Bob Robinson of HFI added, "Starting Thursday, insurance companies can no longer search through your file when you get sick to find some reason to drop you or exclude you for a pre-existing condition. And there will be no more annual or lifetime limits on the amount an insurance company will pay for your care.  These benefits are a huge step forward for our members and for all Americans."
Tim Fraas, a CBHC member, shared his personal health care story.  "In August 2008, at age 51, my cardiologist informed me that I would need a heart transplant. God blessed me with a donor heart October 27, 2008. I was released to return to my job June 1st 2009, but in July I was let go from work.  The official line was lack of work, but I was told that it was mostly due to my health issues.  Luckily, I have great insurance through my wife's employer.  But even with good insurance we are over $10,000 in debt to the hospital, and we spend over $200 a month on my medications. Without insurance it would be over $1900.  It is a real struggle.  Also, with ongoing checkups and expensive medications, I am nearing my lifetime benefit cap.  Once I reach the cap, I am out of insurance.  I consider myself richly blessed, but it is time to reign in the insurance companies and lower costs, and this law does that."
Eliminating insurance company denials based on pre-existing conditions is just one of the new benefits of the health care law rolling out on September 23.  On that day, new consumer protections go into effect prohibiting insurance companies from taking your coverage away when you get sick and need it most, and eliminating lifetime caps.   The new provisions will also improve quality and lower costs by requiring all new plans to cover certain preventive services such as mammograms and colonoscopies without charging a deductible, co-pay or coinsurance.
Jim Duffett, Executive Director of the Campaign for Better Health Care, said,"Health care is the key to economic security and opportunity.  The passage of the recent reform legislation means hundreds of thousands of Illinois' hard working families and small businesses can now enjoy the peace of mind and security that comes from knowing that no matter what happens, they and their families will be able to access the health care they need."
NOTE:  An audio recording of the telebriefing will be available starting Thursday, Sept. 23, in the Audio Archive of the Campaign for Better Health Care's website.
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About the Campaign for Better Health Care
We believe that accessible, affordable, quality health care is a basic human right for all people.  The Campaign for Better Health Care is the state's largest coalition representing over 300 diverse organizations, organizing to help create and advocate for an accessible, quality health care system for all.  For more information, visit www.cbhconline.org.