Gov. Quinn Signs Bill Reforming the State's Health Insurance Industry

Jan 05, 2010, 14:00 ET from AARP Illinois

AARP-backed Legislation Will Provide Critical Consumer Protections

CHICAGO, Jan. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- While the U.S. Congress continues to move forward on a comprehensive federal health care reform bill, Illinois has taken a positive step toward health care reform with legislation aimed at helping consumers in the private insurance market. An AARP-backed bill, the Individual Health Insurance Fairness Act, was signed into law today by Governor Quinn.

The Individual Health Insurance Fairness Act (House Bill 3923), introduced by State Representative Greg Harris (D-Chicago), and State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago), addresses key barriers facing consumers who struggle with unfair and inconsistent industry practices. The measure was strongly backed by AARP and a coalition of health and consumer advocates.

"At a time when Illinoisans are struggling to access affordable health insurance, this bill brings transparency to the health insurance industry and will help protect consumers in the individual market," said Ruby Haughton-Pitts, AARP Illinois Executive Council member. "AARP commends Representative Harris and Senator Steans for their leadership on this critical issue, and Governor Quinn for signing the bill into law."

The Individual Health Insurance Fairness Act will allow consumers to see critical information regarding health insurance industry profits and premium increases. It will also establish an external review process for members of PPO plans and will simplify the complex application process for both individual and small group markets by creating a standard application, making it easier for them to get the coverage they need.

"For the first time Illinois residents will have the right to an independent, outside review of insurance company decisions that deny treatment for their families. We will also be able to find out how much of our premium dollars actually go to healthcare. I salute AARP and other consumer advocates, the insurance industry and the Illinois business community for working together on this new law," said Rep. Harris.

"In the past, the lack of oversight of the insurance industry has lead to an unpredictable, unaffordable insurance market in Illinois for small businesses and families," said Brian Imus, state Director for Illinois PIRG. "This new law will help fix that problem by allowing health insurance customers an opportunity to have an independent review when they are denied a claim by their insurance company."

Nationally, over 4 million people have lost their health care since the recession began, while roughly 17 million purchase their own coverage. In the private market, an average annual premium for a family of four has risen to nearly $5,500, while an individual premium costs $2,500 in Illinois. A recent AARP study found that adults aged 50-64 spend roughly 10% of their income on health coverage, and paying three times as much as their peers with employer-sponsored coverage.