Biss05042017Illinoisans’ access to retirement savings and quality health insurance were put in jeopardy this week, all because Congress cares more about Wall Street profits than it does about ordinary people who struggle every day to get by.

“Once again we see decisions coming out of Washington that, when presented with opportunities to side either with big-money interests and Wall Street or with millions of people across the country, Republican representatives are choosing the former,” said Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston).

Biss was reacting to two pieces of news out of Washington, D.C., this week:

  • On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate passed legislation to impede Illinois and other states from launching state-based retirement savings programs for people who work for small businesses that do not offer retirement plans. President Trump reportedly plans to sign it into law. Illinois blazed a trail for other states in 2015 when it established the Secure Choice program, set to go into effect this year. Biss authored the Secure Choice legislation, which enables workers to take advantage of automatic 3 percent payroll deductions to save for retirement. Experts say the country is on the cusp of a retirement crisis because many workers, especially low-wage workers, do not have adequate nest eggs for retirement and therefore will be reliant on taxpayer-supported social safety nets when they leave the work force. States are looking for ways to close savings gap.
  • And Congress now is eyeing a repeal of President Obama’s signature health care reform, the Affordable Care Act, which has enabled more than 1 million previously uninsured Illinoisans to obtain health coverage since 2013. The Congressional replacement would, among other things, cut the Medicaid program for low-income people and allow states to obtain waivers that free insurers from some Affordable Care Act requirements, such as coverage for “essential health benefits,” including maternity care, mental health services and emergency care.

It took years of fighting against special interests in the financial and insurance industries that want fees high to get Secure Choice passed in Illinois in 2014, Biss said. And now a bipartisan board is administering the rollout of the program in Illinois, something that will continue despite the climate in Washington, he added.

“This was a naked effort to side with Wall Street against ordinary people who need help right now,” he said. “And guess what’s happening today? The House of Representatives is furiously working to pass a health care bill that will take health care coverage away from a million people in Illinois and leave people without reasonable options – while, by the way, also resulting in a massive tax cut for the richest people in the country.

“It’s an unconscionable assault on workers, families and seniors in Illinois and across the country.”

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