Since I was pretty certain that regardless of the topic he chose to discuss, today's guest would have some compelling comments, I was eager to have Rep. Lou Lang
contribute to the blog. And true to his word, today we have his first visit to the Dome-icile.
But little did I know that in Lou's submission, he would be giving me the one of the biggest political stories of the year. Yep, that's right - peace is in the valley, love is in the air, the Sox are in the World Series, and...Lang and the Governor are on the same page.
You'd have to be living under a rock to miss the fact that Lang has been all over the Governor like a like a hungry man at a buffet. But according to his post, Lang is the sponsor of the Governor's ubiquitous All Kids proposal. So either directly or indirectly, the two are talking and have found a common cause on which they can join forces.
I would imagine that this is a good development for both of them as well as for the party as a whole. And I give sincere credit to both of them for getting it done. But you have to wonder what's next, Jack Franks carrying the Governor's campaign finance reform bill?
Anyway, without further delay, Looooooooooooooooou Lang:
Health Insurance for Every Child that Every Parent Can Afford
New Program Would Be a First in the United States
By State Representative Lou Lang (D-Skokie)
Illinois may soon be the first state in the nation to provide affordable, comprehensive health insurance for every child in the state.
I am sponsoring a plan to ensure that every child in Illinois has access to affordable health insurance. Of the 253,000 children in Illinois without health insurance, more than half come from working and middle class families who earn too much to qualify for other government programs, like KidCare, but too little to afford private health insurance.
The program—All Kids—would offer comprehensive health insurance to all Illinois children, with parents paying monthly premiums and co-payments for doctors visits and prescription drugs at rates they can afford.
Last year, health care costs for the average working family out-paced inflation. These costs pushed middle-income families beyond their budgets. Accelerating costs also pushed many employers to either cut benefits or shove premium increases onto their workers.
All Kids would offer children access to comprehensive health care, including doctors visits, hospital stays, prescription drugs, vision care, dental care and medical devices like eyeglasses and asthma inhalers.
Parents will pay monthly premiums and co-payments for doctor visits and prescriptions, based on a family’s income. For example, a family with two children that earns between $40,000 and $59,000 a year will pay a $40 monthly premium per child, and a $10 co-pay per physician visit. A family with two children earning between $60,000 and $79,000 will pay a $70 monthly premium per child, and a $15 co-pay per visit.
For preventative care visits, such as annual immunizations and regular check-ups and screenings for vision, hearing, appropriate development or preventative dental, there will be no co-pays. Contrasted with typical private insurance premiums of $100 to $200 a month, or $2,400 for each child annually, premiums for middle-income families will be significantly more affordable.
The difference between parents’ monthly premiums and the actual program cost—expected to be $45 million in the first year—the state will pay. The Department of Healthcare and Family Services expects the state can pay those costs with savings generated by leveraging the state’s Medicaid program negotiating power.
By providing patients preventative care on the front-end, fewer will need expensive specialized care or emergency care later. For example, infants with stomach flu (gastroenteritis) who receive appropriate primary care can avoid hospitalization for dehydration. Furthrmore, early treatment of children who have chronic illnesses, such as asthma, will also reduce expensive emergency room visits.
Additionally, research reveals, delayed treatment can lead to more complex and more expensive care later paid for by the insured. According to a recent Families USA report, the cost of paying for the uninsured will heap $1059 on to the average family insurance premium, here, in Illinois in 2005.
Twenty-nine other states, including North Carolina, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana, have saved money by reworking and leveraging their Medicaid programs. Based on independent analyses, Illinois will save $56 million in the first year.
However, beyond costs or savings—every child deserves the basic human right to grow up healthy. In addition, every adult has an obligation to advance that right.
My vow, as an adult and legislator with responsibility for Illinois children, is to push for approval of this plan by the General Assembly in November; so, the program can be up and running by July 1, 2006.