SPRINGFIELD— Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn and Dr. Quentin Young - a nationally-recognized public health advocate - discussed the alarming number of Illinois working families without health insurance.
Dr. Young – a physician for more than 50 years whose patients included Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – is Past President of the American Public Health Association and longtime community health expert.
In August, 2001, Quinn and Dr. Young walked across the state of Illinois together to dramatize the importance of decent health care for everyone. Their 167-mile trek from the Mississippi River in Rock Island to the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago enabled them to discuss health care needs with working people in towns across the state.
Quinn and Dr. Young responded to a national study released Wednesday showing that 82 million people - one-third of the United States population under age 65 - lacked health insurance at some point since 2002, including 3,492,000 Illinois citizens.
The study - conducted by Families USA with support from the Kellogg Foundation - found disproportionate numbers of Americans without health insurance including African-Americans, Hispanics (only 40 percent of whom have health insurance) and people under age 25.
“Nearly three-and-a-half million Illinois residents lack sufficient health coverage,” Dr. Young said. “This constitutes a serious public health threat, it results in overcrowded emergency rooms, and must be addressed by Illinois decision-makers.”
Programs like FamilyCare and KidCare – two state programs designed to combat the problem – are needed more than ever, Quinn and Dr. Young said.
“Inadequate health care results in higher absenteeism at work and at school,” Quinn said. “The effects of this crisis are felt in the economy and education institutions in every corner of the state.”
Quinn noted strong public support for the policy of making decent health care available to every Illinois resident. In dozens of referendums organized by Quinn and Dr. Young, voters have endorsed the idea by at least 70 percent. On November 3, 1998, 83 percent of Cook County voters endorsed health care for everyone. On April 13, 1999, 71 percent of voters in suburban and downstate communities supported it.
“Voters have spoken loudly and consistently that health care is a core priority,” Quinn said. “Now it’s up to the leaders to follow the people’s lead and pass this state budget.”