Healthcare Justice Act Raises Hopes

by Lorenzia Shelby 

Advocates for universal healthcare celebrated passage of the Healthcare Justice Act of 2004, Illinois House Bill 2268, this past summer. The new legislation is designed to help the 3.5 million uninsured people in Illinois. On December 15, 2004, supporters of the bill held a candlelight vigil. At the candlelight vigil, State Senate President Emil Jones and State Representative William Delgado were the keynote speakers. Other speakers included Alivio Medical Center Director Carmen Velasquez and Health and Policy Research Group founder Dr. Quentin Young.

Illinois State Representative William Delgado played a major role in promoting and supporting the Healthcare Justice Act of 2004


Each expressed their support and commitment for healthcare for all. The Healthcare Justice Campaign was launched in 2002 to win accessible, affordable, quality health care for all residents and it was endorsed by over 100 diverse organizations. The groups backing the bill say they are the voice for the uninsured in Illinois.

The bill passed the House and Senate in late May 2004. Governor Blagojevich signed the bill into law August 20 of that same year. A health care task force will now recommend to the legislature ways to solve the healthcare crisis in Illinois, according to the Campaign for Better Health Care’s Web site. The General Assembly will then vote on a solution by December 31, 2006, with implementation by summer of 2007.

The Health Care Justice Act was presented to the House and Senate by then State Senator Barack Obama and Representative Delgado. State Senate President Emil Jones also backed the legislation. He talked to Residents’ Journal in a brief telephone interview.

RJ: I want to ask you about the Healthcare Justice Act of 2004?

President Jones: We just passed that bill

RJ: How do you propose to implement the Healthcare Justice Act of 2004?

President Jones: That’s up to the governor, the executive office, not the legislators.

RJ: Why is it important for the government to provide this assistance?

President Jones: It’s important for the government to provide healthcare for those in dire need of it.

Residents’ Journal also talked to a spokesperson for the Campaign for Better Health Care, Molly Bougearel. She offered these comments about the bill.

RJ: How will this bill help the 3.5 million people in Illinois who went without healthcare insurance in 2003 and 2004?

Bougearel: What it is, is a processed bill and attempt to bring together all of the different players and stakeholders in the healthcare industry, from consumers to hospitals to doctors, nurses, insurers, to pharmaceutical companies to businesses to get input from all of the stakeholders. The task force is made up of people in the healthcare industry and legislators and their job is to get public input and they’re going to be holding public hearings in every congressional district in the state. And they are going to be doing research to come up with a set of recommendations or a plan that could be passed by the state legislators that would increase access for healthcare for the uninsured.

RJ: How long has your organization, the Campaign for Better Healthcare, been in existence? Bougearel: 15 years. The vision of the organization is really to work toward ensuring people have access to affordable and quality healthcare. The organization was founded on the principle that healthcare is a basic human right.

Carmen Velasquez, director of the Alivio Medical Center in Pilsen, had a lot to say about the Healthcare Justice Act.

RJ: What are your thoughts on the act?

Velasquez: I am a member and supporter of access to healthcare for all. As we say in the Campaign for Better Healthcare, everybody in, nobody out. We are very supportive of this healthcare act.

RJ: Why is it important for the government to provide medical assistance to the uninsured?

Velasquez: First of all, healthcare is a right. All human beings are entitled to have good quality medical care. So it’s very important in this country, in the same way we fight for education for our children … it’s another aspect of quality of life. That’s a must for all of us.

Another strong supporter of the Healthcare Justice Act of 2004 is Dr. Quentin Young. He expressed his thoughts and aversions to the act.

RJ: Why is it important for the government to provide medical assistance to the uninsured?

Dr. Young: You bet your life it is. We have a situation where 45 million don’t have health insurance and 50 million have very poor insurance. Healthcare in this country is a catastrophe and people who get care under Medicaid get often very difficult or very inferior care because they’re poor and vulnerable. Medicare is much better. Medicare is sort of the model I was talking about. It covers everybody over 65 years old – rich, poor, black, white or whatever with its generous packages of benefits and it also takes care of disabled people. Medicare is a huge success. Now, the enemies of that kind of system are trying to undermine it.
Illinois State Representative William Delgado played a major role in promoting and supporting the Healthcare Justice Act of 2004.
RJ: How do you propose to implement the act?

Representative Delgado: Really it can’t be implemented until the report comes back in 2007. In the meantime, what we have been doing through the Campaign for Better Healthcare is to continue organizing through our communities.

RJ: Why is it important for the government to provide medical assistance?

Representative Delgado: We would have to find all parts participating, which means the employer percentage and the employee pays a percentage. So we do need the government role, but we do not anticipate the government being the single answer. One is, I don’t think we as people want the government to be as big daddy. Two, I don’t think they’re capable of implementing this by themselves.

RJ: Has this bill been signed by the governor?

Representative Delgado: The first portion of it was signed by the governor, and that was to create the commission … but to answer your question, has universal care come to Illinois and been signed by the governor? No, there’s no place to apply, there’s no healthcare for everyone yet. We are in the early stages of bringing Illinois to the middle. Now we have a serious debate and a good discussion on how this will be inevitable and we are very excited. I believe in the next few years you will see [universal healthcare] happen.

RJ: Who presented this bill? Was it you and Obama?

Representative Delgado: That’s correct I presented it in the House and [then-state] Senator Obama presented it in the Senate. He was very excited about it, since it helped him out a lot for his Senate run, the U.S. Senate run.

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