Time is ticking for the Illinois health coverage exchange to lay down the groundwork for how it will operate. The competing state House and Senate proposals to create the Affordable Care Act-backed health exchange remain in limbo right now, as lawmakers in the General Assembly enjoy their summer recess.
Meanwhile, Illinois PIRG is taking a closer look at SB 1555, a bill that would create a legislative committee to further evaluate and make final recommendations on how to set up the exchange. The study would be complete by the end of September, which gives the state a few months before their end-of-the-year deadline to establish a governing board (and get federal funding to proceed). The bill has been sent to Gov. Pat Quinn and is awaiting his approval.
While the group said it is happy the bill will actually jump start the process to create the exchange, Illinois PIRG director Brian Imus cautions that the bill has many pro-insurance industry provisions, including limiting the number of people who can use it and, therefore, affecting its negotiating power. Over 20 advocacy groups sent a letter to state lawmakers last month warning them of the complicated issue and this week, Illinois PIRG also
released a comprehensive report titled 'Building a Better Health Care
Marketplace' (PDF). The report places an emphasis on what other consumer and health care advocates have also preached: accountability
and transparency as well as innovation and stability in cost and quality. Imus said he hopes the report will serve as a guide for the legislative study.
The state must have its health exchange, a qualified marketplace where people can shop for health coverage, running by 2014 or risk the federal government setting one up for them. Progress Illinois has followed the exchange proposals, SB 1729 and HB 1577, and the “backdoor” political activity that has followed. Illinois PIRG had a say in the creation of SB 1729, and they, like many health care advocates, backed the ill-fated bill.