PI Original Adam Doster Wednesday July 22nd, 2009, 11:12am

Study: Health Reform Would Insure 1.3 Million Illinoisans

On Monday, we tried to assess
how many Illinoisans would gain health insurance if Congress ultimately
approves a federally-mandated Medicaid expansion as part of a health
care bill. (The number is likely around 350,000.) But Medicaid is just
one component of any ...

On Monday, we tried to assess how many Illinoisans would gain health insurance if Congress ultimately approves a federally-mandated Medicaid expansion as part of a health care bill. (The number is likely around 350,000.) But Medicaid is just one component of any comprehensive reform package. If the measure currently favored by Democratic leaders of three House committees is eventually passed, we can expect health insurance access to skyrocket. Employers will be mandated to provide coverage to its workforce or subsidize the government for picking up the slack through public insurance. Provisions will prevent private insurance companies from excluding those with pre-existing conditions. Small business owners will receive a tax credit up to 50 percent of basic premiums to insure their staffs. And the Health Insurance Exchange will allow consumers to compare benefit levels and prices for a variety of competing providers -- including a public option -- keeping private companies honest and lowering the cost of insurance for many.

How many Illinoisans stand to benefit? According to a new study (PDF) by Families USA, 862,000 people in Illinois will gain health coverage by 2013. By 2019, that number jumps to 1,387,000. This is a conservative estimate, as well. Families USA divided the Congressional Budget Offices' national coverage estimate across the states based on the most current Census Bureau data on the uninsured, which only runs through 2007. Using those figures, 1.7 million people in Illinois are uninsured. But in the two years since, unemployment has skyrocketed, undoubtedly causing more people to lose their coverage.

Lawmakers on the fence or currently opposed to the Democrats' proposals should really think about these statistics before they cast a vote. For every provision they weaken or reject, thousands of Illinois residents will continue to live on the verge of a medical and economic catastrophe. The state will pay for inaction, too. The New America Foundation estimates (PDF) that health insurance premiums will nearly double in Illinois by 2016 if no changes are made. And contrary to the claim by Illinois' newest GOP Senate candidate, those affected by the health care crisis are not simply "20 and 30 year olds working for small businesses." They are people of all ages -- including millions of families with children -- struggling to get by.

Image used under a Creative Commons license by Flickr user Big Grey Mare.

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