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July 20, 2006

Gov. Blagojevich signs new law to protect health benefits for service men and women
Law will preserve private health insurance for returning military service members

SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed a new law to protect health insurance benefits for service men and women returning from active duty. Senate Bill 916 protects military personnel and their families against the inadvertent loss of health insurance after a tour of duty or an honorable discharge from military service.

"Illinois soldiers, sailors and marines who are sent to protect our country deserve our support and help when they return. They certainly should not have to worry about losing their health insurance because they were called to active duty. This new law will make sure soldiers can continue to receive health benefits after they’ve completed their service," said Gov. Blagojevich.

The need for this measure became clear as returning service members found that their private health carriers were denying them health insurance comparable to the policies they had purchased prior to their military activation.

"Providing decent health care for our service members who have defended our democracy is imperative.  I applaud Governor Blagojevich for signing this legislation to help make this possible," said Lt. Governor Pat Quinn.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation’s Division of Insurance had received complaints about instances when private companies refused to re-instate private coverage after active duty personnel return to private life. The Department worked closely with Senator William R. Haine (D-Alton) and Representative Frank J. Mautino (D-Spring Valley), the chief sponsors of this legislation.

"The men and women of Illinois who sacrifice their personal lives and safety to protect our nation deserve every possible guarantee we can offer them when they return from war and try and pick up their former lives. Providing them the opportunity to reinstate their health insurance seems a small price to pay," said Senator Haine.

When reservists or National Guard members are called to active duty, they normally let their private insurance lapse because they have access to military or government-sponsored health care.

SB 916 will require Illinois health insurance providers to reinstate pre-duty individual health-care coverage for any military member and his or her family once they have returned to private life and their government-sponsored health insurance policy expires.

"Those who serve our country so bravely in the armed forced shouldn't be penalized because of it," said Rep. Mautino. "We want to protect military personnel and their families by making sure that they can continue to receive private health insurance benefits when they leave the service."

The law provides that retiring or deactivated military personnel will have just over two months (63 days) from the date of their deactivation or the day they lose eligibility for government-sponsored coverage to request reinstatement of their former insurance polices.

Working with the General Assembly, the Governor has since 2003 signed into law legislation to assist the state’s one million veterans and those soldiers who are currently on active duty or returning from service. Among these laws are those:

Creating the Veterans Care program to provide access to affordable, comprehensive health care to up to 9,000 Illinois veterans who earn too much to qualify for Veterans Administration Healthcare but cannot afford to purchase health insurance in the private market.

Requiring insurance companies in Illinois to cover Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition hurting thousands of veterans in the state.

Enacting the Family Military Leave Act, which provides the spouse and parents of a soldier who has been called to more than one month of active duty with 15 to 30 days of leave time.

Allowing the Illinois Department of Revenue to create a scratch-off lottery game that will help fund grants and programs to better serve the state’s one million veterans.

Helping soldiers on active duty and veterans get or complete a college education.

Allowing for peacetime veterans to be admitted at the state’s Veterans’ Homes.

Increasing penalties for individuals who fraudulently try to obtain state benefits reserved for veterans.

Extending municipal hiring preferences to all veterans who served at least one year of active military duty.

Providing financial assistance to small businesses that lose employees who are called to active duty during military conflict.

Giving the state accurate information on how Illinois veterans are doing in terms of collecting federal benefits in comparison to veterans from other states.

Affording veterans returning from active duty preference in keeping the jobs they had been offered before being deployed.

Increasing property tax exemptions for disabled veterans and their spouses.

Giving national guardsmen and reservists a 180-day extension to file their property taxes.

Eliminating the initial fees for the Gold Star plates, issued to parents who have lost a child in active service.

Waiving camping, hunting and fishing fees for Illinois residents who are members of the Armed Forces and are returning from active duty.

Increasing the monetary death benefit given by the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs to families of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, making Illinois the first state in the nation to offer soldiers additional monetary benefits than those provided by the federal government.

Helping Illinois soldiers and their families maintain health coverage and childcare assistance when they are deployed on active duty.


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