Amidst the federal government’s failure to approve a budget for the new fiscal year, due largely in part to the funding of President Obama’s healthcare initiative, Gov. Pat Quinn announced the launch of Illinois’ version of the Affordable Healthcare Act, Get Covered Illinois.
A plan expected to help families, small business owners and individuals find the best offered health insurance in the form of an interactive website became accessible Monday for individuals to search and enroll in health insurance plans offered by the state. The enrollment period continues through March 31, according to the website.
“We’re going to be implementing a law, together with the federal government, that will make a difference in the lives of literally hundreds of thousands of people,” Quinn said Monday surrounded by staff, doctors and supporters at the James R. Thompson Center.
“We believe that everybody’s in and nobody is left out,” he said. “That’s what this law is about today, that’s what this mission is all about.”
Donald Lloyd-Jones, a cardiologist from Northwestern Hospital, told a story about a 29-year-old patient who had lost his job and was unable to afford health insurance. The man was incapable of paying for blood pressure medication that would have prevented his heart attack and the stroke the patient had suffered six months prior.
“When I think of patients like him, young patients who are at risk, he’s the kind of guy who can now get back into coverage and get the kinds of medication he needs,” Lloyd-Jones said. “Up to a million people in Illinois may have the opportunity to opt-in, get better health care, preserve their health and live fuller, more productive lives.”
By January 2014, under the healthcare mandate, most every person is expected to have obtained the minimum essential coverage of health insurance. If residents fail to do so, they will be subjected to a penalty equal to 1 percent of their yearly income or $95 a person, whichever is determined to be the higher rate, according to the state’s fact sheet. The fee will increase on a yearly basis until the individual, family or business obtains proper health insurance.
Cristal Thomas, Illinois deputy governor, walked through the Get Covered Illinois website, which offers a database of trained navigators to help individuals looking to purchase health insurance.
“Today the education can begin,” Thomas said. “People can begin the learning process, and they can start taking the first steps in actually getting health insurance coverage.”
Though the plan has been put into action and had already seen over a 100,000 visits from Illinois residents on the day the website was launched, critics were skeptical of this plan and the federal Affordable Healthcare Act.
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), is adamant about repealing Obamacare and putting in place an altered healthcare mandate that he says would better suit the American population.
“[The Republican Party] put together the Republican alternative, which I introduced in Congress,” Kirk said in an interview with On The Issues. “It was not allowed for a debate or even a discussion or a vote.”
In light of the federal government shut down, Quinn said that social services that impact a large number of individuals in the country have been met with skepticism before.
“They objected to it with Medicare, they objected to social security, but eventually they came to understand that this was a necessity needed for America,” Quinn said. “It’s only a matter of time before they realize the same about [Obamacare].”