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Illinois governor still backs Obama’s health law

Bloomberg Businessweek reports:

“Illinois forged ahead with implementing the nation’s new health care law Wednesday with support from its Democratic governor.

Just back from a national governors meeting in Washington, Gov. Pat Quinn started reviewing a plan to roll out key components of the law. Submitted by a council Quinn appointed, the plan proposes new reins on health insurance companies and an online marketplace where people could shop for insurance.

“In Illinois, we do not see the (Affordable Care Act) as an alternative or distraction to the urgent need for jobs and economic growth,” Quinn said in written testimony submitted to a congressional committee Tuesday. “We see the law as a vital part of our economic recovery.”

Quinn’s embrace of the health care law stands in contrast to many Republican governors, who are worried about added costs to state budgets. While the federal government would cover about 95 percent of the cost for people who would be newly entitled to Medicaid in 2014, states would pay the remainder and the federal share eventually would drop to 90 percent.

States have varied widely in their responses to President Barack Obama’s key domestic policy initiative, which requires that all Americans have health insurance beginning in 2014 or pay a penalty.

Some Republican-led states have refused to implement the law after a federal judge in Florida sided with a lawsuit by 26 attorneys general who argued it was unconstitutional. Other states are going beyond what the law requires. Minnesota is expanding Medicaid early, three years ahead of the law’s requirement. And Vermont is exploring a single-payer health care system — a strategy Congress rejected.

The law, enacted almost a year ago, has been lucrative for Illinois, bringing in nearly $290 million to state agencies, non-profits, nursing schools and hospitals. Wednesday’s recommendations come from a panel made up of the heads of Illinois agencies that will be involved with its implementation.

The panel’s report estimates more than 1 million now-uninsured Illinois residents will get health coverage by 2014.

Of those, 500,000 to 800,000 will be covered under the state’s Medicaid program with mostly federal funding. Another 200,000 to 300,000 will buy coverage through the online health insurance exchange, with premiums subsidized by the federal government.

The Web-based exchange would be a quasi-governmental entity selling insurance products to both individuals and small employers. It would be governed by an independent board. The start-up costs would be paid by the federal government.

Like a Travelocity for health insurance, the exchange would make it easier to comparison shop.

“Consumers will be able to make those choices in 15 to 20 minutes sitting at home, on a computer,” said Illinois Department of Insurance Director Michael McRaith, a vice chair of the task force.

The report also recommends legislation to give state regulators the authority to approve or deny health insurance rate increases and to force insurers to spend 80 to 85 cents of every premium dollar on providing health care, or pay rebates to customers.

It suggests amending state law to make it easier to create non-profit, member-run health insurance cooperatives. In Illinois today, companies selling health insurance are all for-profit.

The council held public meetings around the state and received more than 100 comments before releasing its recommendations.

Some early benefits of the health care law were rolled out last year in Illinois. More than 1,000 Illinois residents now receive health coverage through the state’s new insurance program for people who’d previously been denied coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions.”

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