Illinois Takes Decisive Step Towards Health Insurance Reform.

While the U.S. Congress is still working to strike a comprehensive health reform package, Illinois is said to be leading the way for the rest of the nation with legislation aimed at helping consumers who are forced to go the private insurance market to get the care they need. An AARP-backed bill establishing stronger consumer protections in the private health insurance market passed in the Illinois House on Thursday night, and is on its way to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

According to a release, The Individual Health Insurance Fairness Act (House Bill 3923), introduced by State Representative Greg Harris (D-Chicago), and State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago), addresses key barriers facing consumers who struggle with unfair and inconsistent industry practices.

According to AARP Illinois, which strongly backed the bill, The Individual Health Insurance Fairness Act will:

  • Bring transparency to the insurance industry in Illinois – letting consumers see critical information regarding industry profits and premium increase.
  • Establish, for the first time in Illinois history, the right to an independent external review for members of PPO plans (approximately 90 percent of the insured market in the state).
  • Simplify the complex application process for both individual and small group markets by creating a standard application, making it easier for them to get the coverage they need.

The release notes that nationally, over 4 million people have lost their health care since the recession began, while roughly 17 million purchase their own coverage. In the private market, an average annual premium for a family of four has risen to nearly $5,500, while an individual premium costs $2,500 in Illinois. A recent AARP study found that adults aged 50-64 spend roughly 10% of their income on health coverage, and paying three times as much as their peers with employer-sponsored coverage.