Press Release

March 27, 2007

State public health director addresses Western Illinois University students on benefits of Gov. Blagojevich’s historic plan to give every Illinoisan access to affordable, quality healthcare coverage

 Study shows college age adults most likely to lack insurance  

MACOMB, Ill. – With more than 1.4 million adults in Illinois in need of health insurance, Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, addressed students today at Western Illinois University about the importance of having health insurance and how Governor Rod R. Blagojevich’s Illinois Covered plan addresses the healthcare crisis in the state by providing access to affordable, quality healthcare to everyone in Illinois.

Those most likely to lack health insurance continue to include young adults in the 18-to-24-year-old age group according to the American College of Physicians. Many college and university students would benefit from a lower cost private health insurance plan, rebates on health insurance premiums and being able to stay on their parents’ insurance policy until the age of 29 – all included under Illinois Covered.

“Often times, students in college getting ready to graduate may not be hired right away for that great job that offers medical benefits. They may end up taking a lower paying job without benefits and cannot afford to buy their own health insurance. But under Illinois Covered Assist, those young adults would have access to a new State plan where they will be able to buy into guaranteed, affordable private plans,” said Gov. Blagojevich.

Illinois Covered Assist would also help students who are offered health insurance through their employer, but have trouble paying high premiums. Another option available under Illinois Covered is allowing young adult dependents to stay on their parents’ insurance policy until they are age 29.

“Coming right out of college, most young adults don’t have large savings accounts or high paying jobs to pay for medical expenses should a medical emergency happen. But all it takes is one major illness, being diagnosed with a chronic disease or a severe accident that puts them in the hospital for someone without health insurance to realize how important coverage truly is,” said Dr. Whitaker. “Illinois Covered would allow young people access to affordable healthcare so they don’t begin their careers weighed down by medical debt or poor health.”

“Higher education has become essential for remaining in the middle class and because of this my generation is struggling to make it through college without obtaining outrageous debt. After graduation we experience this problem even more,” said Black Hawk College student Jessie Kallman. “Many of my friends who graduated from Black Hawk College and Western can’t find jobs in the competitive market place and are currently waiting tables and delivering pizza to afford health insurance while they seek a job with their expensive associates and bachelors degrees. This bill will help students, like my friends, who continue to look for jobs and continue to wonder why they went to college to wait tables and deliver pizza.”

People who are uninsured are more likely to experience avoidable hospitalizations, be diagnosed at later stages of life-threatening diseases, be hospitalized on an emergency basis, be hospitalized for chronic conditions that could be better controlled with reliable access to physician services, and experience an increased risk of death.

The primary components of Gov. Blagojevich’s Illinois Covered plan include:

  • 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 Illinoisans lower and stable rates. Business groups will be able to connect many of their members with this new affordable insurance, and small business owners can also purchase this product on behalf of their employees.

  • Illinois Covered Rebate: Lowers premiums formoderate 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.

  • 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).

The Governor also proposes expanding the existing FamilyCare program to 400% of the federal poverty level for those who do not have access to employer sponsored coverage, to expand health benefits for workers with disabilities, and to allow dependants to retain coverage until age 29. Additionally, the state will work with both consumers and healthcare providers to develop a Roadmap to Health that will improve the state’s overall healthcare system and promote wellness, while better managing chronic conditions, the most important component for driving down overall healthcare costs.

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Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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