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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 25, 2001

Ryan Signs Bill Expanding Access to Health Insurance Coverage

SPRINGFIELD - Governor George H. Ryan today signed into law legislation that will help expand the number of people who can get health insurance when they lose their job.

Gov. Ryan signed into law House Bill 3004 which will expand the number of Illinois residents who will now be able to qualify for coverage under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act portion of the state's Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan (HIPAA-CHIP). The law will extend from 63 to 90 days the period of time during which individuals who recently lost their coverage under an employer-sponsored group health plan have to apply and qualify for HIPAA-CHIP coverage.

This represents the third time during this legislative session that Governor Ryan has approved legislation strengthening and emphasizing the importance of the state's Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan. This spring he enacted a state budget that increases funding for the program from $17.3 million to $27.3 million for fiscal year 2001 and to $32 million for the current fiscal year to eliminate the waiting list for coverage. He also signed into law an emergency measure in May to assist a number of rural families from Central Illinois whose previous insurer was declared insolvent.

"Losing a job can leave employees, dependents and retirees without any health insurance, sometimes with little or no advance notice that their coverage is being terminated," Gov. Ryan said. "These are difficult and trying circumstances for these people and they need time to seek the best insurance option for their families. This legislation will help them by extending the time they have to enroll in HIPAA," said Gov. Ryan.

HIPAA-CHIP is a separate CHIP pool that was established by state law in 1997 to satisfy the individual portability requirements of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

"This can be very significant for those who would otherwise qualify as 'federally eligible individuals' but are unable to apply within the previous 63-day period allowed by state law," explained CHIP Executive Director Richard W. Carlson, "because those who apply and qualify for HIPAA-CHIP are not subject to any limitation on preexisting conditions."

House Bill 3004 also amends the CHIP Act to allow a limited number of individuals who are eligible for Medicare due to disability to opt for HIPAA-CHIP coverage. Previous law made them ineligible.

This is the third time the Governor has strengthened the CHIP program to help people covered by that program. On May 1st of this year, Governor Ryan signed Senate Bill 962, which authorized a waiver of the six-month limitation on coverage for preexisting conditions for people whose coverage was involuntarily terminated when a Bloomington-based insurer, Illinois Health Care Insurance Company, was declared insolvent. Approximately 150 Central Illinois residents, who were not eligible for HIPAA-CHIP because they were previously covered by individual policies, benefited from this legislation.

In addition, the Governor has also approved, as part of the new state budget an additional $42 million in state funding for CHIP. This included a supplemental appropriation of $10 million for Fiscal Year 2001, and a regular appropriation of $32 million for the current Fiscal Year. As a result, the substantial waiting list for CHIP has almost been eliminated.

CHIP was established in 1989 to provide access to health insurance coverage for Illinois residents who can afford, but are unable to obtain, major medical coverage in the private market because of a preexisting medical condition. There are now almost 5,600 individuals who are covered under the Traditional CHIP (Section 7) pool.

HIPAA-CHIP is a separate CHIP pool. The coverage provided by this pool is funded in part by premiums paid by its participants. The remainder of the costs of providing coverage for this HIPAA-CHIP pool is funded by an assessment that is levied on all health insurers doing business in Illinois. As required by both state and federal law, there is no limitation on enrollment and no waiting list for federally eligible individuals who qualify for HIPAA-CHIP.

House Bill 3004 was initiated by the CHIP Board of Directors, and was sponsored in the House by Representatives Carolyn Krause, R - Mount Prospect; Rosemary Mulligan, R - Des Plaines; Tom Holbrook, D - Belleville; and Dan Reitz, D - Steeleville. In the Senate it was sponsored by former Senator Robert Madigan, R - Lincoln, who also was until earlier this month a member of the CHIP Board. Other legislative members of the CHIP Board are Senator Terry Link, D - Vernon Hills; and Representatives David Leitch, R - Peoria and Frank Mautino, D - Spring Valley.


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