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With possibility of premium hikes, Pritzker signs health insurance law

(The Center Square) – Despite a threat of increased costs to Illinois taxpayers, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed into law what he called the Healthcare Protection Act.

House Bill 5395 includes a package of proposals designed to restrict methods that insurance companies use to reduce the amount of health care patients receive.

“For thousands of Illinoisans, the reforms in this bill will mean the difference between people suffering with curable health conditions and getting the care they need in a timely manner,” Pritzker said at the bill signing in Chicago. “For some, this bill will, quite literally, save their lives.”

Among other things, the legislation would ban step therapy, the tactic insurers use to require people to receive less effective drug treatments before moving to options initially prescribed by doctors.

The legislation includes an initiative that targets the elimination of unchecked rate increases in fully insured large-group insurance carriers. Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, said from now on in Illinois, the focus will be on the patient.

“Somewhere along the line priorities got out of whack,” said Harmon. “Instead of helping patients find the best care for the individual needs, the focus too often shifted to maximizing profits.”

The law will make Illinois the first state in the country to ban prior authorization for in-patient adult and children’s mental health care. Additionally, the measure mandates that all insurance companies regulated by the state of Illinois disclose treatments requiring prior authorization, facilitating consumers’ ability to compare plans when seeking coverage.

Opponents of the legislation have been concerned about what the law will do to insurance premiums. It has been estimated that it could cost state taxpayers an extra $30 million a year.

When the bill was moving through the Illinois legislature, the Illinois Freedom Caucus released a statement.

“Only in Illinois can we pass a bill which raises insurance premiums for working families, delivers more free Cadillac healthcare for illegals, and call it a success,” the group said.

The law goes into effect Jan. 1.

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