SPRINGFIELD – The AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) today rallied at the State Capitol to support Governor Rod R. Blagojevich’s “Illinois Covered” healthcare plan. Over 150 AIDS advocates gathered at the State Capitol wearing “Super Hero” t-shirts in an effort to encourage legislators to be “super heroes” by passing the Governor’s plan to expand access to quality, affordable healthcare to all Illinoisans during the group’s Seventh Annual Illinois HIV/AIDS Lobby Day.
“We in Illinois have led the nation in providing access to healthcare, first with ‘All Kids,’ which gave every child in Illinois access to healthcare, and we’re doing it again with Illinois Covered,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “Under Illinois Covered, the thousands of people in Illinois living with HIV and AIDS can get the medicines and treatments that can help save their lives. Access to healthcare is a basic human right, and taking this chance to slow the spread of a devastating disease like AIDS is a moral imperative.”
The Governor announced Illinois Covered, his plan to ensure that all Illinoisans have access to quality, affordable healthcare, during his Fiscal Year 2008 Budget Address. The plan is a major step toward slowing the spread of HIV/AIDS throughout Illinois.
“Thanks to the Governor’s Illinois Covered plan, people living with HIV/AIDS can hope for a better future,” said AFC Executive Director Mark Ishaug. “Under his plan, more people can be tested, and those with HIV/AIDS can receive the treatments that are essential to fighting the disease and living longer. The bottom line is that the Governor’s plan will save lives, and I urge the General Assembly to pass Illinois Covered and help slow the spread of HIV/AIDS in Illinois.”
Of the approximately 40,000 – 42,000 Illinoisans living with HIV/AIDS, about 20,000 are either uninsured or do not have adequate coverage to meet their healthcare needs. Under Illinois Covered, they would be among the tens of thousands of moderate and low-income residents who would have access to affordable health coverage once the plan is implemented. Illinois Covered will give Illinoisans living with HIV/AIDS access to health coverage that will pay for prescription drugs and treatments that will extend their lives.
“The time has come for all Illinoisans to have access to quality healthcare,” said Illinois Division of Insurance Director Michael T. McRaith. “Governor Blagojevich recognizes that we are in a healthcare crisis, and Illinois Covered can end that crisis by expanding coverage to the uninsured and underinsured.”
“The Governor has made it clear that expanding access to healthcare is his top priority,” said State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago). “This plan could potentially change the face of AIDS in Illinois by making sure people with HIV/AIDS have access to the treatments they need to stay healthy longer.”
“This plan will help save lives,” said State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago). “The Governor’s plan to expand healthcare access has the potential to save thousands of lives, especially in the LGBT community, by making it possible for people living with HIV/AIDS to get the treatments and medications that will save their lives.”
“I hope my colleagues in the House do not hesitate in passing the Governor’s plan,” said State Rep. Connie Howard (D-Chicago). “HIV/AIDS has devastated the black community. We must act now to make sure that no more lives are lost to HIV/AIDS, and this plan can do just that.”
Martese Thomas has been living with HIV for the past 15 years, and she shared her personal struggle with those in attendance at the rally. As a result of a work-related back injury, Ms. Thomas has been unemployed, and she is one of the 1.4 million Illinoisans without health insurance. She struggles to make ends meet and spends many sleepless nights worrying about healthcare.
“I’m stuck in this constant cycle of trying to get into the free clinic to see a doctor only to be prescribed a treatment or a medication that I can’t afford,” said Ms. Thomas. “I always hear politicians talking about the problem, but our Governor has stood up and offered a solution.”
Highlights of Illinois Covered include:
- Access to affordable health insurance to all Illinoisans, not just those who are married or who are dependents.
- Coverage to many low-income adults who do not have access to coverage because they do not have children (up to $10,210 for an individual).
- Any individual who does not have access to employer-sponsored health insurance would have the opportunity to purchase affordable “Illinois Covered Choice” insurance, irrespective of their health status – no one can be denied.
- A rebate program would help moderate and middle-income individuals afford the high premiums of employer-sponsored or “Illinois Covered Choice” insurance.
- Young adults could maintain their healthcare coverage into adulthood; the Governor’s Illinois Covered plan would increase the young adult dependent age to 29. Currently, most plans disqualify dependents for family coverage once they reach age 22 or 23.
- Would allow more women to get access to life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings, increasing early detection and treatment.
- Would help small businesses save significantly on providing healthcare to their workers. For example, a small business providing family coverage now pays an average of $9,473 annually for the employer contribution, while the employee pays $3,684 annually. Under “Illinois Covered Choice,” the employer contribution for a family policy would be $7,200. That’s an annual savings for small businesses of $2,273 per employee for “Illinois Covered Choice” family coverage.