DBiss05252017As Washington sends mixed signals about the future of affordable health care for millions of Americans, the Illinois Senate on Friday voted to bar health insurance companies from denying coverage to Illinoisans with pre-existing conditions.

House Bill 2959 garnered bipartisan support in the Senate’s 46-5 vote. The measure now has been approved in both the Senate and the House; it is expected to be sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner for consideration.

“This legislation guarantees that health insurance companies may not discriminate based on pre-existing conditions – something that roughly half of all non-elderly Americans have, according to the federal government,” said Senator Daniel Biss, an Evanston Democrat and the Senate sponsor of the legislation. Rep. Laura Fine (D-Glenview) sponsored it in the House.

On May 4, Congress passed the American Health Care Act 217-213, which would allow states to opt out of community ratings in the individual markets. These ratings provide a way of spreading risk by setting rates for health insurance among a geographic area regardless of age, gender or health status.

Under the act, if this restriction is removed, states could vary premiums by health status for people who have had a gap in insurance of 63 or more consecutive days in the past year. The state would be required to set up a program for subsidizing high-risk patients, either through a reinsurance system that would pay money directly to insurers or by setting up a high-risk pool. The state would not be required to provide insurance coverage for these patients.

Last week, the Congressional Budget Office released findings that the state waivers allowed by the bill pending in Congress could lead to skyrocketing premiums for people with pre-existing conditions, such as an extra $1,000 per month for maternity coverage in states that waive certain coverage regulations for insurers. Additionally, the CBO found that many people with pre-existing conditions simply would be priced out of coverage in states that use the waivers.

“While it’s unclear how all of these changes in Washington will shake out in the end, Illinois has too much at stake to sit idly by and wait to see what will happen,” Biss said.

“House Bill 2959 will help to protect vulnerable Illinoisans who rely on the ACA and are at risk of losing their coverage with no other affordable options available to them. Gov. Rauner should sign this measure into law so that we can provide a crucial protection for many of our constituents all over the state.”

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