CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today addressed a crowd of hundreds of union workers and healthcare advocates at a downtown Chicago rally calling for lawmakers to pass the Governor’s Illinois Covered proposal and give every Illinoisan access to affordable health coverage. The legislation will make sure all 1.4 million uninsured adults in Illinois have access to quality, affordable health insurance, and will help many middle-income families and small businesses that are currently enrolled in health insurance plans save thousands of dollars a year on healthcare costs. The plan will also reform the existing healthcare system to improve quality and enhance accountability.
“I believe healthcare is a basic human right. Nobody should have to put off seeing a doctor because their deductible is too high or they don’t have coverage. Nobody should be held back from striking out on their own and starting a business just because they fear losing the health insurance they have through their job. But millions of hard-working, middle-class people here in Illinois find themselves in these tough situations,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “We have an opportunity to make their lives better and to give them access to the same kind of health coverage their elected leaders enjoy, and at prices they can afford. A big battle is underway in Springfield over whose interests will drive public policy and the budget this year. With the kind of strong message you are sending today, we can make sure lawmakers remember that they work for you, the workers and families of this state,” the Governor told the crowd.
Hundreds of people convened in front of the James R. Thompson Center in downtown Chicago representing labor unions, healthcare providers and advocates. Today’s rally follows the Illinois House of Representatives’ Committee of the Whole meeting, where on Wednesday the Governor urged lawmakers to approve his FY’08 budget – his ambitious proposal to reform Illinois’ tax system, close corporate loopholes and bring greater stability to the state’s fiscal future to fund record investments in healthcare and education.
The cost of healthcare is rising dramatically nationwide, leaving more and more people uninsured, and forcing businesses to drop or significantly cut back coverage. As a result of faster-than-inflation rate increases, the number of uninsured nationally has increased by 6 million since 2000, to nearly 47 million today. The cost of providing health services to uninsured people puts significant pressure on families, the healthcare system and the state’s economy.
“Action for Children Cares deeply for the children and families of Illinois,” said Maria Whelan, President of Action for Children. “That is why we agree with the Illinois Covered plan – a bold and historic proposal put forward by our Governor. We stand here in solidarity with Governor Blagojevich and all of you to expand access to quality health care and child care. We are here to send a message to our elected officials. The time is NOW.”
“Working people are paying for our broken health care system – with higher health insurance premiums and lower wages,” said Tom Balanoff, President of SEIU Local 1. “Governor Blagojevich is fighting to end the unfairness of the current health care system by making sure everyone is paying their fair share. SEIU members will be at today’s rally and working every day to make sure the Governor’s health care reform and tax fairness plan becomes law.”
While the Governor’s “All Kids” plan, which took effect last year, extended coverage to all children in the state, approximately 1.4 million adults in Illinois are currently uninsured. A majority, roughly 75 percent, are from families with moderate incomes. The Governor’s Illinois Covered plan will provide affordable coverage to the uninsured and will also help many middle-income families and small businesses that are currently enrolled in health insurance plans save thousands a year on healthcare costs. The plan will also reform the existing healthcare system to improve quality and require more accountability.
“Access to health care is perhaps the most critical issue facing this country,” said Joe Costigan, Treasurer of UNITE HERE Chicago & Midwest Region. “It is a concern that is on the minds of workers and their families each and every day. With the ever rising costs of food and fuel and other essentials, the struggle for Illinois workers to make ends meet is tough enough. Add to that the ever increasing dollars that our members and their employers must pay to maintain health care and the burden is practically unbearable.”
“In my congregation I see people everyday suffering without health insurance,” said Reverend Tyrone Crider, President of the Pastors Network of Illinois which represents 200 churches. “I pray for those who land in the emergency room because they can't get the preventative care they need. We need the Governor's Illinois Covered plan for those that can only afford catastrophic coverage, for our children just graduating from school and leaving their parent's insurance plans, for those who insurance companies refuse to cover, and for the other 1.4 million living in our state without health insurance. I thank the Governor for taking such proactive steps to provide access to insurance for all Illinoisans, and I stand with him today to call on the legislature to make Illinois Covered a reality.”