WASHINGTON D.C. – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today talked with national labor leaders and former Congressman Dick Gephardt in the nation’s capital at a meeting sponsored by the non-profit advocacy group, America’s Agenda: Health Care for All, to address the current healthcare crisis that has caused millions of Americans to be without health coverage. Leaders praised the Governor’s efforts in Illinois to expand access to affordable health coverage and to bring down healthcare costs for businesses and working families. The leaders committed to helping the Governor push for passage of “Illinois Covered,” an innovative comprehensive healthcare plan that would benefit the 1.4 million uninsured adults in Illinois and generate savings for Illinois households and businesses estimated to be greater than $15 billion over the next four years.
“The number of people without health insurance in our country is growing at an alarming rate. The employer-based system we’ve relied on for decades is eroding away because of skyrocketing healthcare costs. In fact, about twenty percent of working people nowadays are uninsured. And those who do have it are afraid of losing it,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
“We have to reverse the trend -- and that means reforming our healthcare system so we can bring down costs for businesses and families, and it means expanding access so everyone has options for obtaining affordable coverage. That’s exactly what the Illinois Covered plan will do. I appreciate the Labor movement’s commitment to helping us pass Illinois Covered and setting the stage at the national level for far-reaching health care reform,” the Governor added.
Today, national leadership for the AFL-CIO, SEIU, UFCW, Bricklayers, Laborers, and Teamsters, among others, met with Gov. Blagojevich to discuss his plan. After meeting with the Governor, the national labor leaders, along with former Congressman Dick Gephardt, announced their support for “Illinois Covered” and committed to working with the Governor to pass the plan into law in 2008.
“Working families of Illinois deserve relief from the crushing burden of rising health insurance costs,” says national AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. “Passage of real health care reform like Illinois Covered in a heartland state like Illinois will advance our struggle to enact national reform that will guarantee health care coverage for all Americans.”
“The winds of change are blowing all across America,” said Andy Stern, president of SEIU, the largest healthcare union in the country. “Dozens of states like Illinois are refusing to wait for Washington to fix healthcare, and are taking up the challenge themselves. This is the kind of leadership we're going to need to find real solutions to the healthcare crisis.”
Former Congressman Dick Gephardt said, “Passage of a strong health care reform plan like Illinois Covered in a heartland state like Illinois will have benefits that resonate far beyond the state. I know first hand the strength of pressures against real health care reform that operate on Capitol Hill, regardless of which political party holds the majority. Enactment of a well-designed plan like Illinois Covered will provide a working state template for members of Congress to examine. It will set a bottom line for the kind of national health care reform Congress ultimately enacts.”
“Enactment of the legislation proposed in Illinois will give real momentum to the national health care reform effort,” said America’s Agenda: Health Care for All President Doug Dority. “It’s the best hope in the country for passing real reform legislation in 2008, and it is the best boost we could give to passing the national reform Americans want under the next administration in Washington.”
Skyrocketing healthcare costs have become a top concern for businesses and families across Illinois and the country. Every year, the number of uninsured Americans grows – there are now 1.4 million uninsured adults in Illinois. The 9.7 million adults in Illinois who are insured are seeing their healthcare costs increase faster than their paychecks. Without needed reform, by 2011 Illinois employers will spend $26 billion on healthcare, up from an anticipated $78.9 billion in 2008; and households will spend almost $32 billion on healthcare, up from $25.2 billion in 2008.
The Illinois Covered plan The Governor’s plan would provide affordable coverage to the 1.4 million uninsured adults in Illinois and would also help many middle-income families and small businesses that are currently enrolled in health insurance plans save thousands of dollars a year on their premiums.
In addition, Gov. Blagojevich’s Illinois Covered plan would lower overall healthcare costs by improving management of chronic diseases, promoting wellness, and improving efficiency across the entire healthcare system. Renowned healthcare economist Dr. Ken Thorpe released a study during the spring of 2007 detailing how “Illinois Covered” would result in Illinois families and businesses saving $15 billion in four years through reduced insurance premium growth.
“If enacted, Illinois’ Illinois Covered Health Care Reform legislation will be the most promising health care reform legislation enacted anywhere in America in the last 40 years,” said Thorpe. “The proposed Illinois legislation will introduce major improvements in the quality of health care, while creating efficiencies in the delivery of care that will drive down the growth in health care costs by nearly 10% per year.”
Over the course of his four and a half years in office, Gov. Blagojevich has made healthcare his priority and taken innovative steps to provide Illinoisans relief from high insurance rates.
In 2005 the Governor implemented “All Kids,” a program that allows Illinois’ uninsured children to receive healthcare that covers the essentials such as doctor’s visits, hospital stays, vision and dental care, prescription drugs and other medical services. Those services are available at significantly lower rates than those on the private market.
When the General Assembly failed to approve the Illinois Covered plan during the 2007 legislative session, the Governor used his executive authority to begin expanding existing healthcare programs to serve an additional 500,000 uninsured in Illinois. In October, Illinois became the first state to offer all women uninsured women regardless of income access to free breast and cervical cancer screenings under the newly expanded Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program.