While some portions of the federal health care bill won't take effect until 2014, including new protections for adults with pre-existing conditions, plenty of crucial provisions will kick in within the next year. Among them is support for state-based high-risk insurance pools to help cover people with chronic illnesses or disabilities who are blocked from the individual market.
Currently, about 16,000 people are enrolled in the state's two high-risk pools, which have notoriously high premiums, averaging about $7,600 a year and topping out at $16,000. While the state covers one-third of the cost, patients have to fork over two-thirds. Under the new federal law, states will have $5 billion worth of federal grants to divvy up to expand their pools, thereby spreading out risk and lowering the cost for all participants.
Illinois Insurance Director Michael McRaith tells us he's not yet sure how much assistance Illinois will receive, but he's excited about the change. "There is a profound need to provide coverage to people who have no other alternatives," McRaith says. "Right now, it's just cost-prohibitive for too many." We'll be watching as the Department of Health and Human Services sets up the new guidelines and establishes a funding formula over the next 90 days. Roughly one month after that, the program should launch.