Biss joins fight to prevent denial of pre-existing conditions in Illinois


Daily file photo by Maytham Al-Zayer

State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) speaks at a town hall in January. Biss helped sponsor a bill, which is awaiting Governor approval, that would prevent health insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

Rishika Dugyala, Assistant Summer Editor

State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) joined other Illinois legislators in attempts to prevent health insurance companies from denying coverage or giving higher premiums to those with pre-existing conditions.

Although the practice is currently not allowed, because of the uncertainty about health care reform in Washington, Biss helped sponsor a bill that would ensure Illinois citizens with pre-existing conditions — such as asthma, diabetes or cancer — remain protected regardless of federal-level policy changes.

The bill passed both the Illinois House of Representatives and the Illinois Senate with bipartisan support on May 31 and is waiting for Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s approval.

“Illinois has too much at stake to sit idly by and wait to see what will happen,” Biss said in a May 29 statement. “Gov. Rauner should sign this measure into law so that we can provide a crucial protection for many of our constituents.”

On May 4, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act, a Republican bill that will allow states to opt out of setting standard insurance rates for a geographic area regardless of age, gender or health status.

States that choose to opt out could adjust premiums by health status for people who have had a roughly two-month gap in their coverage, Biss said in the statement. Although the states would have to set up a program for subsidizing high-risk patients, they technically would not have to provide insurance coverage for them, Biss said.

A Congressional Budget Office review of the federal bill found that the allowed state waivers could lead to higher premiums for people with pre-existing conditions, causing many to be priced out of the system.

Roughly half of all non-elderly Americans have pre-existing conditions according to federal government numbers, Biss said in his statement.

Biss said the state bill will also protect the “vulnerable” citizens who are at risk of losing their coverage with no other affordable options available to them.

Still, other Illinois lawmakers warn that the state bill is a premature reaction for a federal health care reform that has only passed one chamber of Congress.

Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) told the Illinois News Network last week that Biss’ bill may need to be changed in the future because it would disqualify the state from receiving aid to cover people with pre-existing conditions.

“The concern would be that we wouldn’t be able to access any of the federal money,” Syverson said.

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