(The Center Square) – Saying it expands health equity across Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday signed the Health Care and Human Services Reform Act into law, but questions about the cost of legislation remain a matter of contention.
It was one of four pillars of equality the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus brought to the governor’s desk.
Pritzker previously signed Illinois Legislative Black Caucus-backed measures, approved during the lame-duck session in January, that address education, criminal justice and policing, and economic equality.
The Health Care and Human Services Act addresses health obstacles while establishing new programs, including a Community Health worker certification and training program.
Hospital closures can now be put on hold until a racial assessment is conducted, and workers are now able to use sick days to care for a parent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandparent or stepparent.
“Health care is a right, not a privilege, but for too long too many Illinoisans have been denied that right,” said Pritzker.
The law caps costs for blood sugar testing equipment, blocks the closure of hospitals until after a review, and extends legal protections for people seeking help for opioid addiction.
The measure also creates an anti-racism commission to “identify and propose statewide policies to eliminate systemic racism and advance equitable solutions for Black and Brown people of Illinois.”
“This legislation takes a wide range of steps to address the inequities that exist in health care for too many people across our state, particularly for people of color, but also people in rural communities and working families across the state,” Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Director Theresa Eagleson said.
Many of the provisions contained in the law are subject to state appropriation, meaning future General Assemblies will have to tackle allocating funds to support them.
Asked about the cost of the legislation, Pritzker said cost totals provided by Republicans were “inaccurate and, of course, they’re exaggerating as they always do about this.”
“We’re going to work very hard to try to implement the provisions of this law,” Pritzker said. I’ll be working together with the legislators to make sure that that happens.”
Republicans have been critical of the measure.
“Today, the governor signed a bill that will cost billions of dollars of fantasy money we just don’t have,” Eleni Demertzis, of the House Republicans, said in a statement. “Anyone who believes his inaccurate rhetoric on costs of this bill should refer to his false statements on independent redistricting.”