Illinois Senate Approves "Health Insurance Exchange"

May 24, 2013

Sen. Bill Brady and Sen. Dave Koehler

The Illinois Senate took a key step toward implementing the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare." Senators approved the creation of a "health insurance exchange."

Starting next year, Americans must have insurance or face penalties. Under the Affordable Care Act, states have the option to create their own health insurance exchanges or partner with the federal government.

A health insurance exchange is at the heart of the Affordable Care Act. It's a marketplace where people who don't otherwise have insurance -- like through an employer -- are supposed to be able to find it. The Senate plan is sponsored by Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, who negotiated his legislation with state government officials, health-care advocates, business, and the insurance industry.Illinois will partner with the federal government for the first year of the program, but after that Koehler says the state should go its own way. 

"I think what's important is that we be able to control that destiny by having a state-based exchange." -Sen. Dave Koehler

 Republicans opposed the legislation. Sen. Bill Brady is from Bloomington. 

"In some cases, controlling your own destiny is a good thing. But we don't believe in this case that is it." -Sen. Bill Brady

 He says the federal exchange may work better at keeping costs down. The legislation passed 37-19, but that may not matter. People on both sides seem to think this plan will not get a vote in the House. Koehler says he's optimistic and will keep working the issue. Illinois Public Radio's Brian Mackey contributed to this report.