Back in the spring, the Illinois General Assembly passed a bill enacting the intent to create a health benefits exchange, a state-wide marketplace called for by the federal Affordable Care Act that will act as a tool to aid consumers to shop for insurance. The exchange has the potential to create a competitive and regulated environment that will keep health insurance costs at reasonable levels, and thus more available to individuals and small businesses, while also making the process of shopping for insurance more straightforward and manageable. In order for the health benefits exchange to operate this way, it is important that the exchange is created with the needs and protection of consumers and small businesses in mind. Earlier this fall, the study committee on the exchange released a report on their findings. This past week, during theIllinois General Assembly Fall veto session, steps were taken to establish the exchange. State Representative Mautino introduced his amendment (House Amendment 2) to SB 1313, a bill which dictates the makeup of the health benefits exchange governing board.
Decisions that have been made in SB1313, House Amendment 2:
The composition of the health exchange governing board has been outlined in the amendment to SB 1313 in a way that supports a board that is likely to take interest in consumers and small businesses. The board, as outlined in the amendment, will be made of 9 members:
· 2 from the Attorney General’s office
· 1 small business owner
· 1 employee of a small business
· 1 consumer representative
· 1 community-based health care provider who primarily serves individuals under 200% of poverty
· 1 health actuary or economist
· 1 member of organized labor
· 1 individual who qualifies for Medicaid
None of the seats on the board will go to legislators, brokers, or insurers. There are also pieces in the amendment that support the creation of a racially and geographically diverse board, as well as clauses that protect against board members who have conflicts of interest in the governing of an exchange board.
Decisions not made in SB 1313:
The amendment puts the board in charge of deciding how the exchange will be financed. There are many options outlined in the amendment, some that support the interest of the consumer, such as a fee levied on insurance companies, and some that are less supportive, such as a fee to users of the exchange.
What will happen next:
Now that the bill has been filed, it needs to be approved. On November 8th, the House Insurance Committee will be holding a hearing to discuss SB 1313. The Committee has 11 Democrats and 9 GOP members. In order for the bill to pass the House, it will need to get support from 71 votes, opposed to the normal 60, due to rules of the veto session. If you want to see a health benefits exchange that supports the interests of individuals and small businesses, call your state representative and tell them to vote Yes on SB1313.