Illinois will partner with feds on health insurance exchange

Jul 19, 2012

Illinois will seek a partnership with the federal government to set up a health insurance exchange for the first year, aides to Gov. Pat Quinn said Wednesday.

That online marketplace eventually could help more than 1 million Illinoisans obtain affordable insurance as part of the federal health-care law.

The exchange will offer private insurance, with federal subsidies to make premiums and other out-of-pocket costs affordable. Illinois residents are scheduled to start enrolling in late 2013 for coverage that begins in January 2014

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act in Illinois had wanted President Barack Obama’s home state to operate its own health-insurance exchange when the complete law takes effect in 2014. That way, a state-appointed board of directors would determine how the exchange works.

But logistical challenges facing an exclusively state-operated exchange appear insurmountable, aides to the governor told The State Journal-Register.

“Our decision, I think, is partly based on the fact that we want to make sure Illinois residents have access to high-quality, affordable health insurance through the exchange,” said Michael Gelder, the governor’s senior health-care policy adviser. “At this point in time, in the situation we’re in, a state-federal partnership is the best way of assuring access to an exchange.”

There’s not enough time for Illinois to meet a Nov. 16 deadline to submit a plan for a state-operated exchange to the federal government, said Cristal Thomas, Quinn’s deputy governor for public policy.

Quinn, who supports Obama and the ACA, plans to continue working with the General Assembly on legislation to set up a governing board and funding source so a state exchange can begin in January 2015, Thomas said.