Illinois approved for health exchange partnership

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February 14, 2013


By Maresa Strano

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois: Illinois Governor Pat Quinn held a press conference yesterday to announce that Illinois has received conditional approval to team with the federal government on a health exchange program for state residents to purchase health insurance and apply to receive federal subsidies. Mixed reactions to the announcement - at one point, crowd members' protestations were audible over the governor's microphone - were not surprising, given the exchange is a requirement of the highly controversial federal health care overhaul, commonly referred to as "Obamacare."[1]

With Quinn, a Democrat and outspoken Obamacare-supporter, at the helm, Illinois sought approval from the federal government to run a health insurance exchange that partners the state with the federal government - as an alternative to creating a wholly state run, state funded exchange program or defaulting to use of the standard marketplace run by the federal government.[2] The federal government's conditions for approving the partnership with Illinois entailed signing two memorandums of understanding: One with Washington "for how Illinois will monitor and approve health plans sold on the exchange by March 1," and another "for how the state will run consumer outreach activities by April 1."[3] Illinois is the 20th state to earn conditional approval to run a partially or fully state-controlled exchange in 2014; by 2015, with the Legislature's consent, Quinn hopes to implement an independent, state-based exchange system.[4]

Beginning Oct. 1, an expected 486,000 - of 1.8 million currently uninsured Illinois residents - will enter the new online marketplace and choose from over 250 insurance plans as well as apply for government-subsidized private coverage. When the coverage kicks in Jan. 2014, an estimated 486,000 will be subtracted from the 1.8 million Illinois residents currently living without health insurance.[3]

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