Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013, 8:23 pm

Illinois to partner with feds on insurance exchange

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By Scott Reeder and Mike Billy

SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Pat Quinn and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Wednesday announced a federal-state partnership health insurance exchange will be establishedfor Illinois as part of Obamacare.

The move puts Illinois among a minority of states that have chosen to create their own exchangeor create one in partnership with the federal government.Illinois is going with the partnership model, Quinn and Sebelius revealed Wednesday in a Chicago newsconference.

The official start date to enroll is Oct. 1.

"Here in the home state of President Barack Obama, we are forging ahead to make the promise ofthe Affordable Care Act a reality," Quinn said. "Access to decent health care is a fundamental right.Hundreds of thousands of people in Illinois will gain quality health coverage through the Health
Insurance Marketplace."

The plan calls for Illinois to continue its responsibility for regulating the insurance market, helping customers and marketing the program. Thefederal government is responsible for building, funding and operating theexchange.

Under Obamacare, Illinoisans with low and moderate incomes would receive tax credits to buy theirinsurance.

"We can insure literally hundreds of thousands of people who today are working and are part of our society but don't have health insurance," Quinn said.

Proponents of Obamacare say the exchanges will function as online forums where people can weigh various health insurance choices and select the best one.Opponents counter that exchanges put the government in control of deciding whathealth insurance companies participate, what plans are offered and what doctors and other providerscan participate.

States were given the option of setting up and funding their own exchanges. Only 18 chose to do
so, with most opting to allow the federal government to operate them, at least initially.

State Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, sees no virtue in a hastily implemented plan.

"I wasn't in favor of it in the first, but the Supreme Court has ruled so we are stuck with it," he said. "I don't see it as a fundamental right, but it is what the Supreme Court has ruled.

"I just wish they weren't moving as quickly as they are.I don't think it's necessary to do it this quickly," Sen. Bivins said. "They want to get prepared, but moving too quickly around here usually has consequences or, as they say, unintended consequences."

State Rep. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan, said he doesn't believe Illinois is moving too fast.

"The sooner you get involved, the more informed you will be," he said. "I know there's a lot of agencies wondering when and how it will be put into effect.

"I don't know the cost, but supposedly it will save the state money," Rep. Verschoore said. "If that's the case, we should implement it as soon as possible."

Quinn administration officials previously have told reporters they hope to get legislation passed thisspring to authorize a purely state-run exchange that would be up and ready in time for open enrollment in2015.

But critics say it would be an expensive proposition for an already cash-strapped state.A state-funded exchange must comply with federal rules that will dictate all aspects of exchangeoperations. In return, that state would be left to pay as much as $100 million per year to operate a newbureaucracy under federal control.