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August 29, 2007

Governor Blagojevich signs law providing individuals with disabilities and CHIP participants with greater access to healthcare services and insurance
Legislation will help make sure that CHIP members who are close to reaching maximum benefits do not lose their insurance

SPRINGFIELD– Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed two pieces of legislation that will help make healthcare more accessible for people with disabilities and provide deeper coverage for Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) participants in Illinois.  The Governor signed into law House Bill 1256, which expands the Health Benefits for Workers with Disabilities (HBWD) program, and Senate Bill 144, which increases the lifetime benefit limitation for CHIP to $2 million for the next three years.
“Every day, individuals with disabilities face a number of challenges many of us wouldn’t think twice about.  Things most of us take for granted – like shopping, filling our cars with gas, even owning our own homes – are more difficult for them.  But accessing quality healthcare at affordable rates should not be one of those challenges,” said Gov. Blagojevich.  “I am happy to sign these bills to help make sure that those who have disabilities and CHIP participants in Illinois have equal access to what is a fundamental right.”
HB 1256, sponsored by State Representative Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) and State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), expands eligibility for the HBWD Program from 200 percent of Federal Poverty Level (FPL) to at least 350 percent of FPL.  This legislation will continue the program’s focus on keeping individuals with disabilities working by allowing those individuals to qualify for healthcare while earning a modest income, and by exempting retirement and medical savings accounts from being counted as assets.  HBWD will be further expanded by increasing the limit of non-exempt assets from $10,000 to $25,000.
The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services oversees the Health Benefits for Workers with Disabilities (HBWD) Program.  The goal of the program is to help people with disabilities return to work with full Medicaid healthcare benefits.  HBWD not only encourages enrollees to work; it also allows them to increase the number of hours they are currently working.
HB 1256 becomes effective immediately.
“I am glad the Governor has signed this bill that enables more people to qualify in the Health Benefits for Workers with Disabilities Program,” said Sen. Harmon.  “Individuals throughout Illinois who have disabilities should have the same rights to employment and health benefits, and now they will receive just that.”
SB 144, sponsored by State Senator Susan Garrett (D-Highwood) and State Representative Lou Lang (D-Skokie), will change the current benefit limitation in CHIP from $1.5 million to $2 million for the next three years enabling participants who are close to reaching their lifetime maximum benefit to not lose health insurance.
CHIP offers health insurance to individuals with certain pre-existing conditions that prohibit them from purchasing insurance from private companies or being offered heath insurance through their employers.  CHIP participants pay between $6,000 and $12,000 annually in health insurance premiums.  If a CHIP participant reached the lifetime benefit limitation, they would be dropped from the program and might not be able to find any other health insurance. 
SB144 becomes effective immediately.


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