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Schakowsky defends Affordable Care Act

Norridge, 12/19/11
Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) talks to Ridgewood High School students in the american government class about the importance of voting at the school Dec. 19. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media

Norridge, 12/19/11 Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) talks to Ridgewood High School students in the american government class about the importance of voting at the school Dec. 19. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media

No matter what happens, lawmakers are saying that people will have access to affordable health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

That was the message that U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky conveyed to about 60 people who attended her recent educational program at the Northbrook Public Library.

“Now anyone can have the same insurance as a member of Congress,” she said.

Schakowsky was joined on Nov. 7 by Kris Sadur, the outreach coordinator and constituent advocate for her office, and Geovanni Gomez, regional coordinator of outreach and consumer education for Governor Pat Quinn’s office, for a presentation that covered the act’s overall effect on all Americans and how the audience could assess their new options through the exchanges.

But the presentation wasn’t the “how to” some were hoping for.

Leonard Kliff, of Lincolnshire, felt the presentation would have been more effective with visuals that listed the plans and walked people through the sign-up and shopping process. He did find other aspects informative, though.

Within the handout distributed to the audience, some standout points included:

• Under the act, people with Medicare in the prescription drug “donut hole” receive a 50 percent discount on covered brand-name medications, which Schakowsky’s office said would save more than $650 per person.

• People with Medicare get free preventative services like mammograms, colonoscopies and annual wellness visits.

• Small businesses can get tax credits to help pay for their employees’ coverage, as opposed to paying an average of 18 percent more for coverage than large companies.

• Young adults under the age of 26 can remain on their parents’ health plans.

• Denying coverage to children because of a pre-existing condition like asthma or diabetes is illegal.

• Putting an lifetime cap on the amount of care that is paid for in times of sickness is illegal.

• Cancelling coverage of care provided to sick patients by finding a mistake in their paperwork is illegal.

• Discriminating against women or people with pre-existing conditions will be illegal starting in 2014.

Kliff, who was in the insurance industry for 50 years, said he was happy that the act would allow his sons to purchase insurance at a better price, despite their having diabetes.

Schakowsky, like President Obama, made sure to apologize to those losing or paying more for their existing health insurance plans as an unintended consequence of the act, and recognized that the problems people were experiencing with the online exchange marketplace were hindering their ability to explore their options and sign up.

“That’s just not fair. We are going to try to figure that one out,” she said, noting that the goal was for the site to be functioning at an acceptable level by the end of November.

Pat Armbruster, of Northbrook, said she had already signed up for the marketplace. She came to the presentation to learn more about how to navigate her way through the website, as she prepared to make the transition from Blue Cross Blue Shield into the unknown.

“Right now, I’m with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois and there’s a good chance that I won’t be able to continue with them,” she said. “But I know there are other insurance programs out there too ... I just need to learn more about them.”

To learn more, Gomez encouraged people to visit www.getcoveredillinois.gov, a site that provides community-based resources for education about the new health coverage options available to people in Illinois.

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