Somewhat overshadowed by the federal government shutdown was the rollout of key provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as "Obamacare," last week. As part of the rollout, Illinois residents now have access to a health insurance exchange run by a federal-state partnership offering medical insurance to all residents regardless of pre-existing conditions or income.
Local elected officials will hold a forum to discuss the ACA, how to apply for coverage, and the law’s impact in Illinois, at the Levy Center Oct. 15, from noon until 5 p.m., said State Senator Daniel Biss. Health insurance counselors will be on hand to assist residents in identifying coverage options and applying for health insurance if needed, he said.
"A lot of people in town have a lot of questions about the Affordable Care Act," said Sen. Biss. "We are hoping to provide some answers."
Sen. Biss, State Representatives Robyn Gabel and Laura Fine, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and a representative from Governor Pat Quinn’s office will all be on hand as well. A panel discussion about the ACA will take place around 3 p.m. Counselors will be available throughout the afternoon.
The rollout began Oct. 1, the very day the federal government shut down over Congress’ failure to pass a budget. Speaking to the RoundTable, Senator Biss said that based on conversations and anecdotes, residents have been "consistently impressed with the prices" for health-care coverage available on the Illinois exchange.
He acknowledged some technical difficulties with the website, which proved inaccessible much of the day. "The website isn’t perfect," said Sen. Biss. "But we’re getting there. ... Nothing is 100 percent perfect." He refused to attribute the website difficulties to high volume alone, saying he was not interested in placing a particular spin on the situation.
Sen. Biss said he expects the state exchange to be a success. "The State has done a very, very extensive job of training counselors on the ground," he said.
The exchange is run by the State, so the federal shutdown has thus far had no effect. "I am certainly not aware of any impact," said Sen. Biss. The State has been laying groundwork for the rollout since the law passed, and more urgently since the Supreme Court ruling upholding the constitutionality of most of the law in the summer of 2012. The bulk of federal contributions to the project have already been spent, he said.