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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Biss05232017State Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) issued the following statement regarding today’s vote in the Illinois Senate to advance a balanced budget proposal and take a small step toward the fiscal stability Illinois so desperately needs after two years of chaos and mismanagement under Gov. Bruce Rauner:

“It’s time to stop the dangerous, unproductive, two-year staring contest in Springfield.

“A budget is a statement of priorities, and while this one is far from perfect, it reflects some core priorities – health care for the poor, P-12 schools, higher education, an increase in the tax credit for low-income workers and vital services for those who need our help. It offers some short-term stability by making different choices and calling on everyone to share the burden of cleaning up Gov. Bruce Rauner’s failures.

“But long-term solutions to our fiscal problems will require bigger reform to create a fair tax system. We must repeal our constitution’s unjust and unusual flat tax provision; we must finally require millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share; and we must eliminate the current carried interest tax loophole that allows the super wealthy to evade state taxes.

“That’s why I am pleased that today we made progress toward establishing each of these policies and building the fair economy that is our only hope for long-term economic health.

“These are the kinds of honest solutions that taxpayers want lawmakers to find the courage to pursue. Until we do that, we will continue to fight budget battles like these – battles that result in winners and lowers – over and over again.”

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Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) discusses Senate Bill 1351, the student loan bill of rights, which would help to protect Illinois students from predatory college lenders.

"The terrible news here is the federal government is not doing its job," Biss said. "Under President Trump, the U.S. Department of Education is now rolling back consumer protections, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is under significant threat. And so the states have no choice but to step in."

The legislation passed in the Senate Wednesday and now moves to the House for consideration.

Category: Latest

Biss05052017As the White House rolls back federal protections for student loan borrowers across the nation, the Illinois State Senate sent a clear message Wednesday that it won’t succumb to pressure from loan services and their lobbyists.

Legislation sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) that would establish a student loan bill of rights in Illinois and help to protect students from predatory college lenders passed in the Senate Wednesday.

“The fact that the student loan industry sent high-powered lobbyists to Springfield to fight against these practical, commonsense protections for middle- and low-income families tells me that we’re on the right track with this legislation,” Biss said.

“Students are drowning in debt the second they complete their education. It can take decades to dig out from that kind of financial burden, and quite often students quickly fall behind on their payments or end up in default. This is no way to start a life, a career or a family.”

Senate Bill 1351 establishes the Student Loan Bill of Rights in Illinois to provide as much protection as possible for student borrowers, a population that frequently is targeted by bad actors in the student loan industry.

The measure would help to ensure students and their families receive clear information about the money they borrow for higher education and how their student loans are serviced. Among the protections offered in the legislation:

  • Creates a student loan ombudsman in the office of the attorney general to assist borrowers with student loans.
  • Requires student loan servicers to provide specialized employees to assist borrowers with questions about loan payments, explain repayment options and evaluate a borrower’s financial situation to determine which payment plan is appropriate.
  • Requires loan servicers to give borrowers accurate information on billing statements and properly process borrowers’ payments, and bars servicers from charging unreasonable fees.
  • Requires loan servicers to tell borrowers when and how their federal loans may be discharged due to a borrower’s disability or a problem with the school the borrower attended.
  • Requires loan servicers to provide information so cosigners know the conditions of being released from their obligations.
  • Requires servicers to follow procedures when a loan is transferred to a new servicer to ensure continuity and ensure borrowers’ payments are properly handled.
  • Ensures borrowers have the right to request information and file account disputes with their servicer and appeal any servicer determination.
  • Establishes a student loan servicing license with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to qualify, oversee and discipline services for violating the Student Loan Bill of Rights.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has investigated abuses in the student loan industry and filed a lawsuit against Navient, one of the largest student loan servicing companies in the nation. She said she supports Senate Bill 1351 because it would reform the student loan industry to better protect borrowers from rampant student loan abuses.

“My investigation revealed Navient boosted its profits by unfairly putting struggling student borrowers into plans that allowed its operators to get off the phone faster and added on millions of dollars in unnecessary debt for borrowers,” Madigan said.

“Further, U.S. Education Secretary (Betsy) DeVos has abandoned student loan borrowers and their families by revoking reforms designed to rein in the widespread abuses revealed in my investigation, making it critical to set standards at the state level for borrowers to get the proper assistance to repay their loans.”

Additional supporters of the legislation include the Woodstock Institute and Illinois PIRG.

Senate Bill 1351 passed in the Senate 34 to 15. It will move to the Illinois House for consideration.

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