CHICAGO – Following a policy briefing on the high female need for health insurance hosted by the Chicago Foundation for Women in Chicago, women advocate groups called on their members to support Governor Rod R. Blagojevich’s Illinois Covered plan which will benefit the more than 600,000 uninsured women throughout the state. Panelists from Chicago Foundation for Women, Planned Parenthood/Chicago Area, Health and Disability Advocates, Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS), and Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition examined the barriers that uninsured women face and how the Governor’s Illinois Covered plan would bring help to those in need. In addition, Blagojevich administration official Krista Donahue highlighted The Commonwealth Fund study, “Women and Health Coverage: The Affordability Gap,” which was released in April and shows how healthcare coverage issues disproportionately impact women over men. One-third of insured women and two-thirds of uninsured women don’t get the health care they need because they can’t afford it.
“For women, regular checkups and screenings are key to detecting so many possibly terminal diseases including breast and cervical cancer and heart disease,” said Governor Blagojevich. “But when women are uninsured or underinsured, they go without checkups and without necessary medicines. The diseases that were once treatable then become terminal. Under the Illinois Covered plan, all women would have access to affordable comprehensive health insurance. Lives will be saved because women will be able to afford to take care of their health.”
At today’s policy briefing, Chicago Foundation for Women presented data contending that women that live in Chicago, Latina women, and women at the two ends of the age spectrum, those right out of school and the elderly, are most likely to be uninsured. Their study shows that more than 24 percent of Chicago women are uninsured, more than downstate or suburban women.
“We know that rising health care costs and lack of insurance lead too many women into debt and bankruptcy. So, access to health care means much more to women and girls than their physical health—it often means their financial health as well,” said Hannah Rosenthal, executive director of Chicago Foundation for Women. “The state is already a leader in expanding health care coverage to those who need it most but it is not enough. We think this is an historic opportunity. Women and girls need Illinois Covered. We pledge to vigorously support Illinois Covered and urge others to do so as well for the health and security of women, girls and everyone in Illinois.”
Under Illinois Covered women would benefit through different healthcare plans:
- Illinois Covered Assist: Similar to FamilyCare and Medicaid, individuals or couples who are very low-income will now have access to full coverage through the state (individuals currently making less than $10,210 annually, and couples making less than $13,690). Women in this program would pay no premiums and have access to comprehensive services.
- FamilyCare Expansion: FamilyCare up to 400% of FPL will provide uninsured parents in Illinois access to comprehensive affordable insurance.
- Illinois Covered Choice: Creates a new, affordable comprehensive insurance plan that anyone without employer-sponsored health insurance in Illinois can purchase. This statewide pool of coverage will offer men and women lower and stable rates. This plan does not contain pre-existing condition exclusions or allow insurers to increase premiums because of gender or previous illness.
- Illinois Covered Rebate: Lowers premiums for moderate to middle-income Illinoisans ($20,000-$80,000 for a family of four) to help them afford their health insurance. The rebate will vary based on income, and those with lower incomes would get a larger rebate. This assistance will provide many women who currently skip care because of cost with more affordable access to care.
The Commonwealth Fund reported that women are more likely than men to use a prescription medicine on a regular basis. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that in the past year, one in five women (20%) reported that they did not fill a prescription because of the cost, compared to 14% of men. In addition 38% of women are struggling with high medical bills compared with 29% of men. Illinois Covered will help by offering affordable prescription drug coverage to all Illinoisans.
In addition, Illinois Covered Assist and the FamilyCare expansion will provide comprehensive health benefits, including doctor visits, prescription drugs, hospitalizations and lab tests, to name a few. Coverage will also be provided for women-specific services such as family planning, reproductive health care and perinatal screenings, breast and cervical cancer screenings and treatment for maternal depression. According to The Commonwealth Fund report, women also need more routine medical exams than men. Illinois Covered Choice will provide lower co-pays and deductibles, thereby saving women money, and making it more likely they will receive preventive care.
Women were also reported to have more chronic conditions that required ongoing medical attention. Compared to women with insurance, uninsured women consistently report lower rates of screening tests for many conditions, including breast cancer, cervical cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and osteoporosis.
“One out of six women in Illinois are uninsured,” said Stephanie Becker, senior policy analyst for Health and Disability Advocates. “Our data show that women in Illinois who are younger and low income are particularly at risk for being uninsured, as are Latinas. Furthermore, women ages 50-64 are more likely to be uninsured than men of the same age group due to lack of income and access to employment-sponsored health insurance. We, at Health & Disability Advocates, applaud the Governor’s plan for providing affordable coverage to all women.”
“Planned Parenthood strongly supports Governor Blagojevich's Illinois Covered healthcare expansion plan,” Tracy Fischman, Vice President for Public Policy for Planned Parenthood/Chicago Area. “This bold plan firmly and directly addresses the health crisis we're facing in this state and around the nation. Governor Blagojevich already has stepped up to the plate by expanding Medicaid coverage for tens of thousands of women and families through the FamilyCare and All Kids programs. But there's much more to do.”
Illinois Covered will offer women access to important health benefits mandated by the state in the group market, but not in the current individual commercial market. Those benefits include breast cancer screening, contraception, minimum mastectomy stays, osteoporosis screening and direct access to OB/GYNs. With the comprehensive options under Illinois Covered, women will finally get the full access to the affordable quality healthcare they deserve.