Illinois keeps pace on Obama's health law

Associated Press Modified: November 16, 2012 at 5:01 pm •  Published: November 16, 2012
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The exchange will be like Travelocity for health insurance, a website where consumers will be able to find out whether they're eligible for new federal subsidies to help pay premiums, or whether they qualify for Medicaid. A call center would help consumers who don't have access to computers, or who have questions.

Looking ahead, Quinn and Illinois lawmakers must resolve disagreements on operating a state-based exchange. Consumer advocates want a governing board free of insurance industry members and insurers want a voice in oversight. There's also disagreement over whether the state should be able to actively negotiate with insurers on behalf of consumers, and be able to exclude health plans that don't offer a good deal.

Brian Imus of the nonpartisan Illinois Public Interest Research Group wants consumers and small business owners to have a big role in how the exchange will operate in Illinois, and he supports Illinois playing an active role in negotiating with insurers.

"I hope lawmakers remember the exchange is created to create more competition and make it easier for consumers to shop for the best health insurance," Imus said. "If the insurance companies are running the exchange it's going to be harder for that to happen."

Insurers may not be willing to compromise on the state's role and whether Illinois will be able to actively negotiate with insurers, said one insurance lobbyist.

"We absolutely believe that insurance is a state-based, state-regulated product and the people who know it best are our state regulators. What we will not compromise on is if the legislation allows the state to become an active purchaser of insurance," said Elena Butkus of Aetna Inc. Real competition would come only if the state plays a less active role, she said.

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AP Medical Writer Carla K. Johnson can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/CarlaKJohnson.



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