CHICAGO - First Lady Patti Blagojevich today rallied with the Illinois Campaign for Better Health Care, U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky, and hundreds of medical students and advocates in support of affordable, quality health care for all Illinoisans. The First Lady discussed the groundbreaking health care advances that have been made in Illinois, and called on leaders to continue to work towards implementing Health Care Justice Act, which Gov. Blagojevich signed into law in 2004. On Wednesday, Gov. Blagojevich was awarded the “Hero of Health Care” Award from America’s Agenda: Health Care for All, a national health care advocacy group, for his landmark All Kids plan, expanding health care coverage to over 400,000 Illinoisans, and for signing the Health Care Justice Act into law.
“Health care is a basic, fundamental right. Healthy people are better able to learn, work and raise a family,” said First Lady Patti Blagojevich. “We have made significant health care advances in Illinois, but we need to do more. I am pleased to join the Illinois Campaign for Better Health Care and other groups across the state to work towards making affordable, quality health care a reality for all families in Illinois.”
The Health Care Justice Act created the 29-member Adequate Health Care Task Force, which is charged with developing a comprehensive health care access plan that must provide all Illinois residents with access to a full-range of preventive, acute, and long-term health care services. The Act requires recommendations to be submitted to the General Assembly and strongly encourages enactment of a plan by Dec. 31, 2006. The plan is to be implemented by July 1, 2007. Last year, the Governor included $1 million in the budget to help the Task Force begin working on a comprehensive health care access plan for Illinois.
“The Health Care Justice Act requires that we look at the problems facing not just the uninsured but the problems created throughout our health care system,” said U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky. “It gives us the opportunity in Illinois to look for bold and comprehensive solutions. By setting timetables for action, the Health Care Justice Act makes it clear that we do not have time for endless debate but that we must act now to make change.”
“Expanding access to affordable health care is not only the right moral thing to do but also shows we value the lives of all Illinoisans. We thank Governor Blagojevich and First Lady Patti Blagojevich for their leadership, vision and commitment that has made health care a right, not a privilege for people in Illinois,” said Jim Duffett, Executive Director, Illinois Campaign for Better Health Care.
The Illinois Campaign for Better Health Care is the state’s largest grassroots health care coalition, which includes more than 330 local and statewide organizations representing consumers, health care workers and providers, community organizations, seniors, religious, labor, disability rights organizations and other citizens concerned about health care and wellness. Today’s rally was held in conjunction with the American Medical Students Association, which is holding their national conference in Chicago.
On Wednesday, Gov. Blagojevich was awarded the “Hero of Health Care” Award from America’s Agenda: Health Care for All, a national health care advocacy group, for his continued leadership on improving access to health care and for signing the Health Care Justice Act into law. America’s Agenda, a partner organization with the Illinois Campaign for Better Health Care, advocates for health care for all Americans, and works with states to broaden access to health care coverage.
“Gov. Blagojevich’s leadership in moving Illinois toward health care for all is a model for the kind of bold and visionary leadership America needs,” said Mark Blum, Executive Director of America’s Agenda.
In November, the Governor was honored with the Illinois Campaign for Better Health Care’s 2005 Outstanding Elected Official of the Year Award. This award is presented annually to an elected official who is judged to have done the most to advance the fight for health care justice in the past year. The Governor was honored for his landmark All Kids plan, which provides access to affordable, comprehensive health care to every child in the state, as well as his commitment to affordable health care and prescription drugs for working families, children, and senior citizens.
Since taking office, Gov. Blagojevich has been a proven leader when it comes to providing access to quality health care for Illinois families from young children to senior citizens, in stark contrast to methods taken by many other states. For example, the neighboring state of Missouri has dropped roughly 100,000 children and adults from its health care programs this year. Michigan and North Carolina have eliminated their state prescription drug programs and have been transferring people completely to the new federal Medicare drug program, which will significantly increase their out-of-pocket expenses.
Specifically, Gov. Blagojevich has improved health care in Illinois through:
All Kids: The Governor’s All Kids program makes Illinois the only state in the country to offer affordable, comprehensive health care coverage for every uninsured child in the state. Of the 250,000 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.
Expansions to FamilyCare and KidCare: Since taking office in January 2003, Governor Blagojevich has expanded health care coverage to over 400,000 Illinoisans. The Kaiser Family Foundation has ranked Illinois first in the nation for ensuring parents have access to health care and second best state in the nation for providing health care to children who need it.
Illinois Cares Rx: In June, Gov. Blagojevich signed the “No Senior or Person with Disability Left Behind” law, which created the Illinois Cares Rx program, the nation’s most comprehensive response to fill in the gaps created by the federal prescription drug program. Seniors could have seen their out-of-pocket expenses increase by almost$3,000, but because of this new program will not have any increase in costs or loss of benefits at all. Over 230,000 seniors have already enrolled in the program to date.
Prescription Drug Coverage: Under the Blagojevich administration, Illinoisans benefit from a wide array of programs designed to assist them with the high cost of prescription drugs: Illinois Cares Rx, the Rx Buying Club and the I-SaveRx drug importation program, the first program in the nation to allow citizens to purchase lower cost, safe prescription drugs from Europe and Canada.
Women’s Health: Since taking office, Gov. Blagojevich has been a proven leader for women’s health, increasing funding each year. In addition, the Governor expanded a program to provide free breast and cervical cancer screenings to uninsured women that has already provided over 98,000 free screenings. Last summer, the governor also signed several pieces of women’s health legislation, including a law requiring insurance companies to cover screening for breast cancer earlier in a woman’s life, and a law requiring insurers to provide coverage for ovarian cancer screening tests for women who are at risk. The Governor also created the Illinois Healthy Women Program that has offered family planning and other health care services to over 167,000 women in the state who were otherwise uninsured.