Public hearing on government-health-plan bill set Thursday

Public hearing on government-health-plan bill set Thursday

CHAMPAIGN – Are you disgruntled about not being able to afford health insurance? Or not being able to afford medical care even when you do have insurance?

Here's your chance to tell your legislators what you think of a proposal to provide health care for everyone in Illinois through a government-sponsored, single-payer insurance plan.

A public hearing on the Health Care for All Illinois Act (HB 311) will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Illinois Terminal building, 45 E. Universtiy Ave., C.

The hearing will be conducted by two of the bill's more than two dozen sponsors, State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, and State Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago.

The legislation, which has already passed the House Health Care Availability and Access Committee, calls for a statewide single-payer insurance plan that would cover doctor, hospital, mental-health, long-term, prescription-drug, dental and vision care.

Sponsors contend such a plan would pay for itself by eliminating the profits and overhead costs of private insurance companies. The government would cover the cost through a payroll tax, government funds currently being funneled into Medicare and Medicaid programs and an income tax that would replace all money being spent on insurance and out-of-pocket co-payments.

Private insurers would be prohibited from selling coverage that duplicates any of the coverage offered by the government-sponsored plan, though they would be allowed to sell coverage for other things that wouldn't be included.

Jane Hayes, spokeswoman for Urbana-based Health Alliance Medical Plans, said she wonders how many people would be willing to entrust their health care to a government-run system.

"Like everyone else, Health Alliance has the same goals of higher quality health care at an affordable price for everyone," she said. "On the other hand, it's hard to say that throwing out a system that so many people are satisfied with is the right way to go. In the polling that we've seen, an overwhelming majority of Illinoisans don't want a government-run health system."

Champaign County Health Care Consumers, which is co-sponsoring the hearing, said such a plan wouldn't do away with providers such as Carle Clinic and Christie Clinic. But it would eliminate any need for different policies based on who has coverage and who doesn't and what kind of coverage they have.

"When a consumer or patient goes for their health care, they will be treated on the same level playing field as everybody else," said Executive Director Claudia Lennhoff. "The clinics wouldn't have policies that would target specific insurance groups, so all patients would have to be treated equally. And patients would choose what provider to go to based on who provides the best care, not on who takes or doesn't take their insurance or won't see a patient with Medicaid."

Another advantage, Lennhoff said, is that a single-payer plan would direct more of each dollar spent on health care to actual health care rather than insurance company profits and overhead. And it would eliminate competition between employers based on who can afford to provide health insurance and who can't, she added.

"I believe people are ready for this," Lennhoff said. "I believe people are more than ready for this."