Quinn says Illinois can now go forward with health care plans

Chicago Tribune reports:

Gov. Pat Quinn today said the Supreme Court’s ruling clears the way for Illinois to move forward with plans to expand health care, saying 1.5 million people who don’t have coverage will qualify for insurance beginning Jan. 1, 2014.

“What we learned today is that the legal cloud has been eliminated, the U.S. Supreme Court, the highest court in our land, has said the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land and we in Illinois plan to carry it out,” Quinn said. “The bottom line is more people in Illinois, folks who are raising kids, who are working jobs and who are living from pay check to pay check will now have an opportunity to get health care coverage.”

Quinn said Illinois will not opt out of requirements to expand Medicaid health care coverage for the poor, saying “Illinois is going forward with the president… we are not backing down.”

“We want everybody in, nobody left out when it comes to decent health care coverage,” Quinn said. “Our state will be healthier and stronger, our costs for our employers will be lower if we carry this law out to its extent.” 

Aides say under the law, 500,000 more people will qualify for Medicaid coverage, which initially will be funded complete by the federal government. Illinois will be required to pick up 10 percent of the costs by 2020, but state budget officials say it should not cost the state any additional dollars because the federal government will still be reimbursing Illinois for health care at a higher rate than before. 

Officials estimate that another 1 million people will be able to purchase coverage through a state health insurance exchange, which has yet to be put in place.

The exchange is designed to create a competitive forum for people to buy insurance coverage, but state lawmakers have yet to pass legislation creating the online marketplace. Quinn said he will ask lawmakers to act when they return to Springfield this fall, but some health care advocates say Illinois is running out of time and Quinn should issue an executive order to set up portions of the exchange on his own. 

Quinn dodged questions Thursday about using his executive powers to move forward with the exchange. But the governor did acknowledge that initially, at least, the state will partner with the federal government to run the exchange instead of operating the marketplace on its own. 

Critics of that decision say it takes away some of the state’s ability to control how the exchange operates. 

“I think it’s problematic to do a state-federal partnership exchange, it means there’s less accountability to Illinois consumers because some of the decisions about how the exchange will operate in Illinois will be made in Washington D.C.,” said Brian Imus, director of the Illinois Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy organization. “State lawmakers should feel like this is our responsibility, we know the Illinois insurance marketplace best, we should be establishing the exchange.” 

Still, Quinn said today’s decision is one that will shape the future of Illinois and the country. 

“This is a great day for health care in America, and a great day for health care in Illinois,” Quinn said. “We should never, ever forget this day.”