The following originally appeared on Crain's Chicago Business.
Illinois just dodged a bullet with the outcome of King v. Burwell. If the Supreme Court had ruled against subsidies being challenged in the case, working people and families in the state collectively would have lost more than $49 million a month to help purchase health insurance.
In its decision, the court affirmed the legality of the provision of premium tax credits under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in all states, whether they established their own health insurance marketplace or used the federal marketplace. On average, working poor and middle-class Illinoisans are getting $211 monthly to help pay their health insurance premiums. A different decision would have meant a 169 percent increase in out-of-pocket expense on the average premium.
Recent data by the Kaiser Family Foundation show nearly 73 percent of the remaining uninsured in Illinois eligible for Get Covered Illinois, the state's health insurance marketplace—roughly 597,473 people—live and work in metropolitan Chicago. In the Chicago area, more than 100,000 of the remaining uninsured reside in areas where English is not the predominant spoken language. While concise data are not available of how many of the uninsured are working, American Community Survey data indicate that as many as 62 percent of the uninsured in Illinois are working at least part time and more than likely work for small businesses.
The most recent year for which U.S. Census data on businesses are available, 2012, show 314,199 business establishments in Illinois. However, 94 percent of these companies employ fewer than 50 employees and thus are not required to provide health insurance via the ACA. Cook County alone accounts for 41 percent of the state's total small businesses.
Now that the King v. Burwell decision has put the legality of subsidies to rest, Illinois needs to get busy enrolling the remaining 597,473 uninsured individuals eligible for a path to coverage in the Get Covered Illinois marketplace. Of these uninsured, 283,629 are eligible for a tax credit or subsidy.
It's a matter of economic security for our residents and for Illinois' economic environment. The math tells us that the business community—especially small businesses—needs to be at the heart of efforts to enroll the remaining uninsured. Crain's and Health & Disability Advocates surveyed small businesses last fall and learned that Chicago-area companies still face increasing health care costs; are confused by the requirements of the ACA; and are unlikely to enroll themselves and their employees online. In fact, more than 80 percent of those surveyed said they shop for health insurance for themselves and their employees using health insurance brokers and agents.
Now that federal funding for ACA assisters and navigators is ending, a public-private partnership for enrollment in Get Covered Illinois is critical. We need to double down on engaging health insurance brokers and agents. While the state did an amazing job in enrolling 633,757 adults in Medicaid as part of ACA, Illinois ranked well behind others in marketplace enrollment, coming in 20th out of 37 states that operate marketplaces using HealthCare.gov.
Get Covered Illinois is key to helping Illinois businesses thrive, enabling them to better attract and retain talent. The marketplace also encourages entrepreneurship by ending the reliance of individuals on larger employer-sponsored coverage.
A strong ACA marketplace is a win-win for the business community and the state. We urge Springfield, City Hall and county governments to make enrollment of the remaining uninsured a top priority and engage the business community, health insurance brokers and agents in the process.
Health & Disability Advocates
Director of Strategic Health Initiatives
Health & Disability Advocates