Illinois lawmakers hope to create state health benefits exchange

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) — Illinois could soon have the authority to create a statewide health exchange with the goal of getting more people access to health care coverage.

House Majority Leader Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) told the House Insurance Committee Thursday that her bill could allow Illinois to set its own parameters for operating a heath plan without being tied to the federal marketplace.

Gov. JB Pritzker has earmarked $10 million in his Fiscal Year 2024 budget proposal to help the Illinois Department of Insurance prepare for this plan.

Gabel and agency leaders noted that 18 states have their own health exchange. Three other states are trying to pass similar bills this year.

“There are hundreds of thousands of people who are eligible for coverage but for whatever reason haven’t been able to access enrollment plans,” said Brian Gorman, the outreach director for Get Covered Illinois. “Other states who have looked at this realized that nearly 67% of those folks get lost in the plan selection process.” 

House Bill 579 could create also create a Health Benefits Exchange Advisory Committee made up of stakeholders from the insurance industry to ensure the program is implemented properly. Lawmakers hope the health benefits exchange could launch during the open enrollment in the fall of 2025.

Gabel has held two meetings with stakeholders to hash out how this plan should move forward. However, the Illinois Life & Health Insurance Council would like to see more information about implementing the program. Kate Morthland, the director of policy and advocacy for the council, appreciates the autonomy and benefits the state could be granted by moving to this platform. However, Morthland said her organization is concerned that this would be done with a large “sweeping” policy without necessary and in-depth stakeholder input and fiscal research.

“We’ve received no budget, staffing, implementation or operational projections to date,” Morthland said. “The language also allows the department to issue emergency rules as well as emergency procurement powers which removes the ability for important stakeholder input.” 

House Bill 579 could allow Illinois to set its own parameters for operating a heath plan without being tied to the federal marketplace.

The Department of Insurance has conducted preliminary calculations on how much the program would cost. The Illinois Department of Health Care & Family Services said it could cost roughly $60 million annually. The agency explained that the system would likely be paid over many years, but consumers are already paying that amount to the federal government. 

Gabel told the committee that she hopes to have her second amendment for the bill moved to the floor before 3rd reading deadline Friday night. She also noted that there will be various amendments after that to perfect the legislation.

“Thank you for bringing this forward and convening all the stakeholders to make sure that whatever we deploy in Illinois is going to result in better costs and more affordability for our consumers in Illinois,” said Rep. Bob Morgan (D-Deerfield). “It’s long overdue, and I’m excited about the opportunity for us to finally move forward and to do it right.”

Copyright 2023. WAND TV. All rights reserved.

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March 23, 2023 at 10:43PM

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