CHICAGO— First Lady Patti Blagojevich today received the Personal PAC Pro-Choice Leadership Award for her outstanding commitment to reproductive rights and contraceptive equity. Earlier this year, Mrs. Blagojevich launched a website to help Illinois women obtain insurance coverage for prescription contraceptives and gain access to lower-cost contraceptives. She has also supported Gov. Blagojevich’s Executive Order requiring pharmacies that stock contraceptives to fill all valid prescriptions for birth control without hassle or delay. Personal PAC is a bi-partisan political action committee dedicated to advancing pro-choice interests.
“Protecting women’s access to adequate healthcare and contraceptives is one of the most important issues of our day,” said First Lady Patti Blagojevich. “I am honored to accept this award from Personal PAC, and I look forward to continuing the fight to get women the access to healthcare they need.”
“First Lady Patti Blagojevich is an incredible advocate for the women and children of Illinois,” said Terry Cosgrove, President and CEO, Personal PAC. “We are delighted to present her with the Pro-Choice Leadership Award, for her tireless advocacy of healthcare equity and reproductive rights.”
In July, the First Lady launched a website - www.contraceptives.illinois.gov - that provides information on which insurers now cover contraceptives. This new coverage, which was mandated by law when Governor Rod R. Blagojevich signed the Contraceptive Equity in Health Insurance Act in 2003, can help women save an average of $400 per year on the cost of their contraceptives. The site also includes a toll-free number (1-800-280-4149) and an online form where women can report to state regulators if their insurance company is not complying with the new law. In April, Gov. Blagojevich submitted an emergency rule requiring pharmacies that stock contraceptives to fill all valid prescriptions for birth control without hassle or delay.
Since her husband took office, Patti Blagojevich has been an advocate for the women and children of Illinois. In October, the First Lady kicked off the Breast Cancer Awareness month by launching the “Pink Potluck Initiative,” which encourages First Ladies of African-American churches to host Pink Potlucks - social events that promote women’s health awareness. Mrs. Blagojevich has also brought attention to Healthy Families Illinois, a program that helps prevent child abuse by supporting high-risk parents. In addition, she has promoted the Prevention Development Resource Project, a partnership between DCFS and Prevent Child Abuse Illinois, and the governor’s landmark All Kids plan, which makes Illinois the only state in the nation to provide affordable, comprehensive health insurance for every uninsured child in the state.
“The First Lady has taken the lead on so many issues that matter to women, and one of her priorities has been contraceptive equity,” said State Sen. Carol Ronen. “She takes a backseat to no one when it comes to the betterment of children and families.”
Over the past two years, the Governor has worked with lawmakers to expand women’s access to contraceptives and other important health care services.
· Contraceptive Equity in Health Insurance Act: In July of 2003, the Governor signed the Contraceptive Equity in Health Insurance Act, which requires private health insurance companies that cover prescription drugs to also cover all FDA approved contraceptive drugs and devices.
· Contraceptive Coverage Awareness Campaign: In January 2005, the governor launched a coordinated effort to inform women that private insurance plans that cover outpatient drugs or services are now required to cover all FDA approved contraceptive services and prescriptions.
· First state to require pharmacists to dispense female contraceptives: In April, Governor Blagojevich issued an emergency rule requiring pharmacists whose pharmacies sell contraception to dispense birth control to women with valid prescriptions. The Governor’s emergency rule became permanent this summer. In addition, the state launched a new website, www.contraceptives.illinois.gov, to help women know which insurers now cover contraceptives.
· First state to make Rx drugs from Europe and Canada available: Under Governor Blagojevich, Illinois became the first state to allow its citizens to purchase prescription drugs from Europe and Canada at discounts of up to 50 percent. Seven of the most popular contraceptive prescription drugs are now available through I-Save Rx, including Ortho-Evra 20-150, Ortho Novum 7/7/7, Ortho-Cyclen, Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Alesse, Micronor and Triphasil.
· $2 million in grants for teen pregnancy prevention: The grants included in the Fiscal Year 2006 budget will be distributed by the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) to 35 community-based agencies throughout the state. The DHS Teen Pregnancy Prevention program provides grants to community agencies to reduce teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases and the incidence of HIV/AIDS. Earlier this year, Gov. Blagojevich announced the number of babies born to Illinois teenagers continued a nine-year decline in 2003, falling to a record low of 9.7 percent.
· BASUAH (Brothers and Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS): In order to address alarming trends that show HIV/AIDS disproportionately impacting African Americans, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich announced an expanded social marketing effort designed to reach the African-American community with education, prevention and testing. The campaign is called BASUAH – (Brothers And Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS)- A Governor Blagojevich initiative to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS. Numerous media outlets statewide have agreed to partner with the State of Illinois to boost this effort geared toward the African-American community. The state will increase funding efforts ten-fold to $2.5 million, build media partnerships and form key partnerships with churches, colleges and South Africa to address this public health crisis.
· Responsible Family Planning: In April 2004, Gov Blagojevich launched the Healthy Women program under the Department of Public Aid (now Department of Healthcare and Family Services). The free program offers low-income women who are leaving the Medicaid program the tools to prevent unplanned pregnancies and to assist women in making a successful transition from welfare to work. More than 80,000 women have participated in the program.
· Women’s Health-Line: Increased access to services through Women’s Health-Line and other informational resources. In FY04, the state-funded toll-free Women’s Health-Line responded to more than 3,000 requests, referring women to services and providing nearly 345,000 free educational materials to women and community providers. These materials are also available through the department’s website.
· All Kids: Last month, the governor signed his landmark All Kids plan, which will make Illinois the only state in the nation to provide affordable, comprehensive health insurance for every uninsured child in the state. Of the 253,000 children in Illinois without health insurance, roughly half come from working and middle class families who earn too much to qualify for programs like KidCare, but not enough to afford private health insurance. Through All Kids, comprehensive health insurance will be available to every uninsured child at rates their parents can afford.
· KidCare: Since taking office in January, 2003, Governor Blagojevich has expanded health care coverage to about 170,000 more children in Illinois, and Illinois is now ranked as the second best state in the nation by the Kaiser Family Foundation for providing health care to children who need it.
· FamilyCare: Over the last three years, despite $8.5 billion in collective budget deficits, Governor Blagojevich has expanded FamilyCare coverage to over 170,000 working parents. The Kaiser Family Foundation ranked Illinois the top state in the nation for providing health care to adults who need it.