Up to 7,000 may be eligible to help pay premiums
HENNEPIN, ILL. – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today signed legislation that allows
several thousand men and women in Illinois who have lost their jobs due to the
effects of foreign trade or whose pension funds are bankrupt to obtain health
insurance and have the federal government pay the majority of the premiums.
In a Steel Workers Hall here, Blagojevich inked two bills passed by the
General Assembly that allow qualified individuals to acquire health insurance
through the state’s Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) and have the
federal government pay 65 percent of the monthly premiums. Hennepin is the
site of the LTV Steel plant, which closed in 2002 due to foreign competition and
recently reopened at 30 percent capacity.
“I would much rather be here talking about jobs, but it is also important to
assist those who are out of work due to the adverse effects of U.S. trade
agreements,” the governor said. “These bills will give those displaced
workers and others whose pension funds are bankrupt the opportunity to purchase
quality health insurance at an affordable price."
Blagojevich said there are approximately 7,000 individuals in Illinois who
may qualify for assistance, including 1,500 steel, auto, textile and other
manufacturing workers who have lost their jobs because of foreign trade
competition and 5,400 retirees.
“Unfortunately, there are far too many recent examples of people who lost
their jobs due to foreign
competition who may be eligible for health care assistance,” the governor said.
“However, I am
pleased that federal and state governments have put together a program that
helps workers who need short-term government assistance to help make it through
a financial crisis.”
by foreign competition include steel workers at LTV Steel, which employed 600
before the company declared bankruptcy and closed its plant here in late
2001. The plant reopened in 2002 and employs about 150 steel
workers. Other Illinois plant closures include Bethlehem Steel, Chicago;
Bridgestone-Firestone, Decatur; Laclede Steel, Alton; Burgess Norton
Manufacturing, DeKalb; Butler Manufacturing, Galesburg; and Reliant Bolt and
Fastener, Chicago and Rock Falls.
Most of the cost
of the program, including the tax credit and program administration, will be
borne by the federal government. The state expects to receive up to $2
million in federal grants to help defray the costs of expanding the CHIP health
coverage pool as well as start-up and other administrative costs associated with
for assistance are those harmed by foreign trade and who receive benefits under
expanded federal trade adjustment assistance (TAA) and retirees receiving
payments from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) because their
pension funds are insolvent. Displaced workers can receive health premium
payments from the federal government for up to two years and those receiving
PBGC payments for up to 10 years, provided they are not eligible for
signed by the governor – House Bill 3298 -- conforms the state’s Comprehensive
Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) to the federal requirements to be a qualified
health plan and House Bill 707 provides a one-time waiver that no eligible
individual is denied the opportunity to enroll in CHIP because their health
insurance lapsed for more than 63 days between Dec. 1, 2002, when the federal
program became effective, and Sept. 30, 2003.
With the federal
government picking up 65 percent of the premium, the average individual share
would be approximately $1,750 instead of $5,000.
displaced due to foreign trade will be advised when they apply for unemployment
insurance of the availability of the health care premium assistance. Those
covered by PBGC will be notified through the mail of their eligibility and
receive information along with a customer contact phone number and Web site
address. In addition, CHIP will send representatives to worksites and
union halls throughout the state to provide information about the programs.
House Bill 3298
was sponsored by state Reps. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley; David Leitch,
R-Peoria; Robert Rita, D-Blue Island; Calvin Giles, D-Chicago; and Mike Boland,
D-East Moline; and state Sens. Emil Jones, D-Chicago; Pat Welch, D-Peru; and
Denny Jacobs, D-East Moline. House Bill 707 was sponsored by state Reps.
Mautino; Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago; William Delgado, D-Chicago; Monique
Davis, D-Chicago; and Mary Flowers, D-Chicago; and state Sens. Welch and Bill