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House Democrats pass massive health care reform bill

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill.- Illinois lawmakers were back in Springfield to pass a massive health care bill that was the last pillar of the Black caucus agenda.

The proposal aims to address racial and ethnic disparities in the state’s health care system. Rep. Camille Lilly (D-Oak Park) stressed the state currently lacks funding, access, and health care priority for Black and brown communities. She said lawmakers have to continue working to improve that aspect.

“We must understand that we have the resources, when you have over $42 billion in a state budget,” said Lilly. “What we don’t have is the priority to make sure that everyone has access to health care, that have access to quality of life, and that has access to the necessity to keep them well.”

The legislation would also focus on pregnant women and their babies. Rep. LaToya Greenwood (D-East St. Louis) said Black women are dying of pregnancy-related causes at six times the rate of white women.

“There is something inherently wrong with the system that is not valuing the lives of black women equally to white women,” said Greenwood. “We have come to a moment of reckoning that requires us to reach higher and demand more.”

Greenwood also said this legislation attempts to address this crisis through implicit bias training.

Republican voices

Republicans strongly opposed the bill, saying it’s premature to pass the plan without knowing how much it will cost. Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer (R-Jacksonville) asked Democrats how they plan on funding the billion dollar proposal.

“Now you’re talking about adding 5-12 billion dollars of additional cost to the state of Illinois,” said Davidsmeyer. “I know it’s subject to appropriations but you know what that means to me, what I hear when you say that, it’s a false promise.”

House Democrats explained funding for the measure will come from the federal government. Still, Assistant Republican Leader Ryan Spain said he’s concerned the legislation is subject to appropriations to the tune of billions of dollars.

“If we begin to take special one-time federal money and apply it to new spending like this, we’re doing a terrible disservice to the tax payers of Illinois, to the people that require healthcare improvements in all of their communities,” said Spain.

The Peoria native said while there is much to be supported, the proposal’s spending, implementation and long-term ramifications are concerning.

The bill passed out of the house on a vote of 72-41 and will move over to the Senate.