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August 27, 2007

Gov. Blagojevich signs law to help protect disabled Medicare beneficiaries from being overcharged by insurers
Governor also signs laws creating new tax check-offs for lung cancer and autoimmune diseases research

SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed a new law to protect disabled individuals under Medicare from being overcharged by insurers. Senate Bill 873 will end insurance discrimination against disabled patients by ensuring this population has more options to choose from while dramatically lowering the cost of policies. Medicare supplemental insurance policies provide much needed wrap-around coverage for beneficiaries with disabilities. 
“Every day, disabled individuals face 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 quality healthcare at an affordable rate should not be one of those challenges,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “I am happy to sign a law to help make sure that disabled people have equal access to what is a fundamental right.”
SB 873 was sponsored by State Senator Maggie Crotty (D-Oak Forest) and State Representative Elaine Nekritz (D-Des Plaines).
Prior to this legislation, these policies were not subject to any premium or rate regulation.  The result being that companies were allowed to charge higher premiums simply based on the individual’s disability.  Currently the average premium for a Medicare supplemental policy for those under 65 is $6,158.  Because of this legislation, the highest average premium for individuals with disabilities will be $2,801.
SB 873 becomes effective June 1, 2008.
The Governor also today signed into law Senate Bill 796, which creates a new check-off for lung cancer research to be added to the Illinois Individual Income Tax Return next year, and Senate Bill 797, which creates a check-off for autoimmune disease research to be added to the Illinois Individual Income Tax Return next year. 
SB 796, sponsored by State Senator John J. Cullerton (D-Chicago) and State Representative Fred Crespo (D-Streamwood), adds lung cancer research to the causes for which taxpayers when filing their state income tax return and creates the Lung Cancer Research Fund to collect money received from the checkoff. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is designated to make grants to public and private not-for-profit entities for the purpose of lung cancer research. According to 2003 data from the US Center for Disease Control, lung cancer is the third most prevalent form of cancer in Illinois. Last month, Governor Blagojevich signed the Smoke-Free Illinois Act to protect millions of Illinoisans from the dangers of lung cancer by imposing a statewide ban on smoking in all public places, including bars, restaurants, public buildings and work places. 
SB 796 becomes effective immediately.
SB 797, sponsored by State Senator Deanna Demuzio (D-Carlinville) and State Representative Gary Hannig (D-Gillespie), will add autoimmune disease research to causes for which taxpayers can donate when filing their state tax returns and creates the Autoimmune Disease Research Fund which will collect the money received from the check off and designates IDPH as the agency to make grant to public or private entities for the purpose of research for the treatment and cure of autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune disease refers to any disease that results from an aberrant immune response including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and scleroderma. According to the National Institutes of Health Autoimmune Disease Coordinating Committee, autoimmune diseases afflicted 5 to 8 percent of the U.S. population in 2002.
SB 797 becomes effective immediately.
Lung cancer and autoimmune disease will be added to the list of checkoffs on the Illinois Individual Income Tax Return which also includes 13 other causes such as Wildlife Preservation, Child Abuse Prevention, Alzheimer’s Disease Research, and Assistance to the Homeless. To prevent the list of checkoffs from becoming too long and overwhelming tax-payers, SB 797 also limits the number of tax checkoffs on the Illinois Individual Income Tax Return to no more than 15 at any one time. Checkoffs have to raise $100,000 in a fiscal year for their cause in order to be included on the next year’s tax return.


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