Gov. Pat Quinn, along with a cavalry of other legislators, held a press conference at the Howard Brown Health Center, 4025 N. Sheridan, Sept. 26 to emphasize the need for affordable and accessible healthcare that includes a public option.
"This is the battle of our lifetime. We must win healthcare reform, " Quinn said.
The venue was an appropriate one. Howard Brown Health Center has been providing healthcare, social services, and ongoing research to uninsured and underinsured community members since 1974. It is the largest LGBT organization in the Midwest, serving over 36 000 people each year.
"If you want to see how to do it right then come here. This fine institution, for more than three decades, has been reaching out to the community to help people whether you have the money to pay for it or not. Howard Brown is there for you. I wanted to come here to thank all those involved in this mission," said Quinn.
Despite Howard Brown's achievements in providing health services to the LGBT community and beyond, the fact remains that approximately 2 million Illinoisans are without healthcare. This puts an added strain on a state budget already in crisis.
The uninsured increase the cost of healthcare for everyone because they have less access to preventative care. A lack of preventative care means people are more likely to use last-resort healthcare, like the emergency room, to treat exacerbated illnesses and injuries that could have otherwise been avoided by prevention. The result is that hospital emergency rooms and other public health facilities find themselves overwhelmed with patients, underfunded and understaffed. Read more story below....
Simply put: The more people without health insurance causes healthcare costs across the board to skyrocket even further.
Moreover, in Illinois, health insurance companies remain largely unchecked by government oversight, meaning they are free to raise premiums and deny coverage to just about anyone to increase their profit.
"Most recently, working with my colleagues from other states, we've shined the light on insurance companies collecting premiums from seniors and using that money to fund lobbying and marketing efforts, sending back to those same seniors detailed and colorful brochures that frighten them into thinking that health insurance reform is going to lead to the end of their Medicare benefits," explained Michael McRaith, director of the Illinois Department of Insurance ( DOI ) . McRaith also directs the state's Senior Health Insurance Program ( SHIP ) and is on the executive committee of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.
So then, what action-oriented efforts can we expect from our elected officials in Springfield? State Representative Greg Harris, D-13th District, is the sponsor of a bill that would give consumers more independent, external oversight of their healthcare plans.
"HB 2923, the largest piece of healthcare insurance reform that has ever been passed in Illinois, will give people, for the first time in this state, the right to have outside appeal of adverse decisions made by their health insurance companies. It will require transparency of what is called the 'Medical Loss Ratio', which is how much money insurance companies keep for profit and bonuses instead of spending it on healthcare," Harris said.
As for Howard Brown, Quinn said, "We really want to try to expand their whole research component. They've been a model for the rest of nation when it comes to taking care of each other. Supporting this place is the right thingthe necessary thingto do. I'm going to be working to get as many resources from the federal government to extend the mission of this institution. It's important we help expand what it's doing. Our state needs players like this."
Indeed, Howard Brown's research department is not only their largest, it continues to receive national recognition as one of the country's lead agencies for their work in the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study ( MACS ) , the longest running study of HIV in the world. If the governor does lobby on behalf of Howard Brown, they may just be able to expand their research endeavors after all. According to Michael Cook, CEO of Howard brown, the clinic recently applied for an $8 million grant from President Obama's stimulus package to build a new research facility.
When asked if he was confident that Quinn and the plethora of other legislators, including U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, would, in turn, be players for comprehensive healthcare reform that included issues important to the LGBT community, Cook said, "Here's what we can take away from today's showing of support: The only way we can do our work here at Howard Brown is through our collaborative model. It is, literally, how we support the public. So everything we do is on a partnership basis, whether it's a partnership with a federal agency or a local hospital. We believe that collaborative model is the best way to serve people. These politicians here today are our partners in bringing comprehensive healthcare reform with a public option to our people. I believe them because I believe that reform is the only ethical way to treat healthcare. "