For nearly two centuries (since 1818), Illinois has been governed by its state constitution — not as a mere compact or historical document, but as a real, living embodiment of our bedrock principles.

Paramount among those principles, stated clearly and unequivocally in the state constitution’s preamble, is our obligation to “provide for the health, safety and welfare of the people”:

We, the People of the State of Illinois – grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberty which He has permitted us to enjoy and seeking His blessing upon our endeavors – in order to provide for the health, safety and welfare of the people; maintain a representative and orderly government; eliminate poverty and inequality; assure legal, social and economic justice; provide opportunity for the fullest development of the individual; insure domestic tranquility; provide for the common defense; and secure the blessings of freedom and liberty to ourselves and our posterity – do ordain and establish this Constitution for the State of Illinois.

That principle is more important than ever today as the Illinois Hospital Association and hospital community fight for and work to ensure that all Illinoisans have access to health care.

Last week, I testified in Springfield about the great harm to patients, communities and hospitals from a state government “shutdown” with no budget in place for the new fiscal year that started July 1. In my remarks I pointed out that there are serious implications for patients and hospitals, including decreased access to needed health care services, possible staff furloughs and layoffs, inability to pay vendors, and delays in needed improvements and life-saving technology. All of this seriously stresses the state’s ability to provide for the health, safety and welfare of the people of Illinois.

Something must be done. While we wait for a final FY2016 budget to be approved by the General Assembly and the Governor, IHA urges legislators and the Governor to enact a one-month budget to continue payments for services provided to Medicaid beneficiaries – children, seniors, families and the disabled – whose health, safety and welfare depend upon it.

By the end of June the U.S. Supreme Court will announce its decision in the King vs. Burwell case on the legality of tax subsidies for participants in federally facilitated Health Insurance Marketplaces, impacting 34 states including Illinois. The nation has been eagerly awaiting this ruling since the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in early March. A negative ruling will affect more than 230,000 Illinoisans and millions of people nationally.

IHA and the hospital community have been strong supporters of health insurance coverage for many years, and we have serious concerns about the potential loss of $600 million (annually) of Health Insurance Marketplace subsidies for Illinoisans.

As your trusted voice—the most influential voice for Illinois health care—IHA is ready and prepared to work with key stakeholders, including the Governor, his Administration and the General Assembly on making sure access to quality health care for Illinoisans is maintained, including making sure that these critical health insurance subsidies continue.

Not only have we developed and distributed a position paper on the King v. Burwell case, we have constructed a Key Considerations paper, outlining potential approaches and options for establishing a state-based exchange so subsidies can continue if the Supreme Court rules against them. We have outlined for stakeholders the key elements and options for a state-based exchange, to help facilitate the state moving efficiently to a state-based exchange, if the state needs or wants to move in that direction.

While establishing a state-based exchange is one option, we first must look to Congress to take action to continue the subsidies. Congress must find a reasonable solution – one that does not undermine the Affordable Care Act, e.g., by eliminating the individual and employer mandates – but a solution that ensures and maintains access to quality health care.

Over the past few months, IHA has been preparing for the Supreme Court ruling by having thoughtful conversations with the state’s Congressional Delegation, the Governor’s Administration, state legislative leaders and other key legislators. We have raised this issue with the media. We have knocked on doors and walked down hallways to make sure that key stakeholders know that we are ready to work with them on a moment’s notice to develop a viable solution.

The waiting is almost over, but our work is never done. IHA will continue to advocate for our members and the patients and communities they serve so that together we can continue on our transformation journey of providing affordable, high-quality care to all Illinoisans.

As we seek solutions to turn around the state’s economy, one answer is staring right in front of us. Hospitals and health systems drive economic growth in our neighborhoods, our towns and our cities.

Just look around. Surrounding our hospitals are local businesses, vibrant and recovering main streets, transportation routes, and “help wanted” signs. Our sign, the blue “H”, symbolizes access to health care and the health of our local economies.

Hospitals are a key economic asset, contributing to the vitality of our communities, and developing the life science industry in Illinois to support health and wellness for the future.

Businesses select locations where “must-have” health care is available and vibrant.

Just consider:

  • Hospitals are a leading sector for employment and new jobs:
    • 1 in 10 jobs in Illinois is in the health care sector
    • Illinois hospitals directly employ more than 250,000 workers
  • Hospitals are a key driver for the middle class and career development:
    • Hospitals provide professional level jobs and salaries, helping people move to and stay in the middle class
    • Hospitals develop the workforce of today and tomorrow from pre-K through higher education, including training physicians for the future
  • Hospitals help lower overall health costs by:
    • Keeping employees productive by preventing and managing chronic conditions
    • Engaging in population health activities to promote healthier conditions before they become complex and costly
  • Hospitals are hubs for innovation and economic growth by:
    • Fostering workforce development in life science jobs of tomorrow
    • Attracting private sector partners to grow and expand innovative businesses in life sciences
    • Serving as incubators for new medical technologies, life sciences research and biomedical engineering.

We can be proud of our hospitals and health systems – essential community organizations now and in the future and essential to the economy of Illinois.

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