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House committee approves Illinois universal health care plan

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A House Democrat wants Illinois to have a single-payer health care plan. The Health Care for All Illinois proposal from Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago) could allow any resident to fill out an application and receive a health insurance card in the mail.

This bill would allow patients to go to any physician or hospital they choose. Providers wouldn’t charge people copays or deductibles either. Flowers says the new health care system would pay off all costs for patients. She feels her plan improves traditional Medicare benefits and expands coverage to include everyone in need. Flowers says health care shouldn’t be based on skin color, zip code, or income.

“So many people in my community died because of pre-existing conditions because they couldn’t get to doctors or they were denied or it wasn’t covered under their plan. What part of you needing health care is not covered under an insurance plan that you’re paying for,” Flowers asked.

Illinois would also create a health services trust to hold funding for the plan. Even so, Republicans were skeptical of how the state could cover the costs. Although, Flowers said the money could come from budget appropriations, grants, and the federal government. She also emphasized that Illinois brought in more money than anyone anticipated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Evenly distribute funding and care

“It’s not that we don’t have the money or we can’t do it,” Flowers said. “It’s how it’s being distributed and to know that monies are going to businesses to delay and deny sick people access to health care. And they’re dying.”

Rep. Lamont J. Robinson (D-Chicago) echoed Flowers’ message by highlighting his fight to keep Mercy Hospital open for constituents. In short, he said it’s important for lawmakers to strive to provide quality health care for every resident.

“Many of us across the state have citizens or constituents that unfortunately have issues as it relates to health care,” Robinson said. “Trying to get quality health care across the state is a problem whether you’re in downstate Illinois or my district in Chicago.”

House GOP won’t support single-payer

Rep. Deanne Mazzochi also said she appreciated the intent to create greater access to hospitals. However, the Elmhurst Republican said her caucus likely wouldn’t support the universal health care model. She gave examples of countries and states who struggled after instituting single-payer healthcare plans.

“It either leads to financial collapse, in the sense of the scope of desired services don’t match to what the state can afford to pay,” Mazzochi said. “Or alternatively, what we see in other countries…in Canada, it’s true in places in Europe, even in the UK and others…you don’t actually resolve those health care inequity issues. It becomes the government hospital is the location where you’re actually going to get sub-standard treatment.”

Mazzocchi said most people living in governments with universal healthcare still have to pay for private insurance to go to good hospitals. She also suggested the committee should find a better way to lower barriers in a more innovative way.

Still, the bill passed out of committee on a partisan 8-5 vote. It now heads to the House floor for second reading.

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Mike Miletich

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