New County Task Force on Healthcare will issue recommendations and implementation plan that will increase access to 180,000 county residents
Chicago, IL- Less than a week after President Obama vetoed legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, putting health care access into the national limelight in the 2016 presidential race, the Cook County Board of Commissioners approved a proposal to increase healthcare access to all county residents today.
The resolution, sponsored by Commissioner Bridget Gainer and Commissioner “Chuy” Garcia, creates the new “Cook County Task Force on Health Care Accessibility”. The task force will have three months to make recommendations to the County President and Board as well as the Cook County Health and Hospital System (CCHHS) regarding the expansion of quality affordable healthcare to the uninsured residents of Cook County. The resolution states that the task force will “work to implement the key findings as soon as is feasible.”
The task force will be comprised of a representative from President Preckwinkle’s office, Commissioner Bridget Gainer, Commissioner “Chuy” Garcia, representatives from CCHHS, at least five representatives from the community-based healthcare advocacy and organizing group Healthy Communities Cook County (HC3), and representatives from a Federally Qualified Health Center, the Cook County Medical Professional Association, and a representative from a nonprofit hospital system in Cook County.
“Over 180,000 residents, from child care workers to small business owners, remain uninsured,” said Commissioner Gainer. “Cook County cannot be healthy until everyone – even the most vulnerable – are healthy.” The resolution has the support of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “We have made great progress in connecting Cook County residents to coverage and healthcare access since the Affordable Care Act was passed, but there is still work to be done to increase access to healthcare for the uninsured,” Commissioner Garcia said.
College student, HC3 leader, and uninsured county resident Eric Ekra told county board members that he hasn’t seen a doctor in over three years. As an immigrant from Ivory Coast now living in Chicago’s West Ridge community, he has not been able to find affordable care. “When I get sick, I take home remedies and pray that it’s nothing serious. I don’t want to have to make a choice between paying my school bills and paying an enormous hospital bill.”
A survey of over 400 county residents conducted by HC3 found that most uninsured access healthcare through hospital emergency rooms. According to the resolution taxpayers could save hundreds of millions of dollars per year if patients in the nation’s second largest county used primary or preventive healthcare options rather than emergency rooms. In 2014, Cook County spent approximately $340 million in uncompensated health care on individuals who visited the emergency room without insurance or were otherwise unable to pay.
The Healthy Communities Cook County (HC3) Coalition consists of grassroots organizations, policy groups and labor unions from across Cook County to address the need of primary and preventive healthcare for uninsured low-income families.