Gov. Blagojevich Pushes Universal Health Care for Illinois

December 11, 2006

Gov. Rod Blagojevich campaigned on a promise to one day bring universal health care to Illinois, and a state panel came up with ideas for the Legislature to accomplish it, but not how to pay for it.

The proposal to guarantee benefits and expand government coverage could cost the state billions of dollars and make it a requirement for people to have health insurance or face a tax penalty. Employers also would be charged per-worker fees to subsidize premiums, but many businesses would earn credits to offset the fees by offering insurance coverage.

Blagojevich’s office said they would review the group’s final report when it’s sent to lawmakers early next year.

“It’s obvious that expanding coverage to the uninsured in the state has been and will continue to be a top priority for the governor,” Blagojevich spokesman Gerardo Cardenas said.

The proposal is estimated to cover about 1.5 million of the state’s 1.7 million uninsured.

Illinois, which already has expanded health care for children, is part of a national debate about how to get coverage to the uninsured. Massachusetts is moving ahead with a program that will require everyone 18 and older to carry health insurance under a plan that relies on subsidies and penalties to make coverage more affordable.

It’s unclear how Illinois would pay to expand health care at a cost of more than $3 billion in the first year.

That was a turn off to panel member Joe Roberts, an independent insurance agent, who also says charging employers a fee could make them rethink whether they want to do business in Illinois.

Topics Illinois

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