Illinois' Blagojevich Unveils Universal Health Proposal

March 5, 2007 ( - Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has introduced a $2.1 billion universal health care proposal that he said will cover all 1.4 million uninsured state residents by January 2008.

According to a new state Web site, , the program includes a component aimed at small firms and individuals whose employers don’t offer workplace coverage called “Illinois Covered Choice.”

The new insurance product will be offered through private insurance companies and will provide comprehensive coverage, including inpatient and outpatient care, prescription drugs, and physician visits, according to the Web site. Noted a summary on the Web site: “By leveraging the size of a statewide pool, the plans will have lower and more stable rates than current plans that are available to individual or small business purchasers.”

The Web site said any small business with 25 or fewer employees that agrees to subsidize at least 70% of its employees’ premiums may purchase group coverage through Illinois Covered Choice at cheaper prices than it currently gets for comparable good quality coverage.

For example, according to the state, a small business providing family coverage now pays an average of $9,473 annually for the employer contribution, while the employee pays $3,684 annually. Under the new proposal, the employer contribution for a family policy would be $7,200.

In addition, that employer’s workers would pay less – $1,350 for a worker in a family of four with an annual income of $45,000. That’s an annual savings for a family of four of $2,334 a year if they work for small businesses that offer Illinois Covered Choice family coverage.

Individuals and families without employer-sponsored coverage will be able to save thousands annually, the state said. For example, a family of four currently pays an average of $15,564 annually for family coverage purchased on the private market. According to the state, under Illinois Covered Choice , a family of four with an annual income of $45,000 could get comprehensive family coverage for $2,250 annually.

The plan would include a Massachusetts-style individual mandate by 2010 if an insufficient number of uninsured residents voluntarily sign up to participate in a statewide health insurance pool that would be created by new legislation.

To encourage more insurers to provide affordable health insurance to residents, Illinois Covered also would provide stop-loss coverage to insurers, paying 80% of any medical bills that exceed $40,000 a year, according to the Web site.

Illinois joins a handful of other states with universal health care initiatives including Massachusetts (See New Bay State Rules Would Excuse Most Cos. from Per-Worker Health Coverage Fee ), Pennsylvania (See PA’s Rendell Unveils Universal Health Program ), state of Washington (See Washington Governor Calls for Universal Health Care ). California (See CA Senator Proposes Worker Health Care Plan ) and Oregon (See Oregon Latest to Move Toward Universal Health Care ).