Home RSS Blagojevich to push plan to offer health insurance for all SPRINGFIELD, Ill... Blagojevich to push plan to offer heal
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich plans to call Sunday for approval of a complex plan that would make sure all Illinoisans can obtain health insurance within the next three years.
Under his ''Illinois Covered'' plan, the state's 1.4 million uninsured adults could enroll in government health services, get help paying for private coverage or buy insurance under a new program the state would require insurers to join.
People making up to four times the federal poverty level could qualify. That's an annual income of about $40,000 for one person and $80,000 for a family of four. The more people earn, the less state assistance they could get.
Aides said the first phase of the program, if approved by lawmakers, would start in January 2008. All parts of Illinois Covered would be up and running in January 2010. It would cost the state more than $2 billion a year when fully implemented, they estimated.
''The overall aim here is to provide affordable, good-quality health insurance to everyone in Illinois. While doing that, we want to improve the overall health system for everyone, to lower the health care costs for business and consumers,'' said Anne Marie Murphy, the governor's director of health care programs.
Businesses are likely to object if they're required to cover most of the new costs. With the budget deficit over $2 billion and long-term debt climbing, some people will argue the state can't afford a major new program. Others may question the plan if it would divert money from other needs, such as education.
Blagojevich made health care a top priority in his first term, expanding programs so that all Illinois children would have access to some form of insurance. Now, as he begins his second term, he wants to make Illinois one of the few states to cover all adults, too.
Spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff wouldn't say how the Democratic governor hopes to pay for the plan. She said he would discuss funding Wednesday, when he delivers his State of the State address and budget proposal.
Another source of funds would be a tax on businesses that don't offer health insurance to their employees. Ottenhoff and Murphy said they didn't know how much businesses would be required to pay.
But spokesman Danny Chun said the association still has plenty of questions, such as what Blagojevich plans to do about payment to doctors and hospitals serving the poor in state programs. The current reimbursement rate covers only a portion of true expenses, he said.
The governor's aides said his proposal will include money for better reimbursement and quicker payment of the state's medical bills. They could not provide specifics on the changes or what they would cost.
Jim Duffett, executive director for the Campaign for Better Health Care, praised the plan, especially for its potential to help small business and the middle class.
For people below the federal poverty level, there would be a free new program called ''Illinois Covered -- Assist.'' This would primarily serve people without children, who cannot join existing programs such as Medicaid and FamilyCare.
For people who cannot obtain insurance through their jobs, the state would offer ''Illinois Covered -- Choice.'' That would be low-cost coverage that regular insurance companies would be required to provide. The state would help people pay the insurance premiums, with the amount of help based on their income.
People making more than four times the poverty level would be able to get this coverage, but the state would not help them pay for it. Businesses that can't afford to provide insurance for their employees would be able to offer it through this program.
The state would also offer ''Illinois Covered -- Rebate'' for people who can't afford the insurance offered through their jobs. Essentially, the state would help them pay the premiums for existing insurance programs.
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