Massachusetts and Utah both have something Illinois lacks. Though
the two states don’t seem to have much in common, they do both have a
health exchange program, a qualified marketplace where people can shop
for health coverage that focuses on quality for consumers and not the
company profits. The Massachusetts version is privately run and not
associated with any government, while the Utah version is run by the
state. Creating an exchange by 2014 would put Illinois in line with the goals established by President Obama's Affordable Care Act. But two bills in the General Assembly achieve the goal in different ways.
A proposal favored by many health care advocates is SB 1729. The hallmark of the bill is the establishment of an independently-governed by a nine-member board -- appointed by the Governor and Attorney General and confirmed by the Senate -- made of up health care consumers, providers, small business, employees, labor, and insurance producers. The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, which is supporting SB 1729, said guidelines to keep the board independent will be essential: “Strong conflict-of-interest rules will keep board members focused on the public good, not narrow interests.” It will be at this created exchange that people and small businesses can shop around for health coverage and those with more “modest means” can enroll in public programs like Medicaid.
Currently in Springfield though, is the competing HB 1577, something the Shriver Center says was “drafted without any public input, lacks a governance plan, totally ignores the public program side of an exchange, makes preemptive decisions on insurance offerings.” That bill easily passed the House and heads to the Senate.
A spokeswoman with the Campaign for Better Health Care -- which had representation in the Illinois Health Care Reform Implementation Council that helped piece the senate bill together -- said SB 1729 was consumer-oriented, while the HB 1577 was written in the interest of insurance companies. "[SB 1729] has consumer protection in place where [the House bill] doesn't," Kathleen Duffy said. And the organization is moving on it -- the group took about 40 advocates to lobby at the capitol Wednesday. The legislation has until Friday to pass the Senate.