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Biss, Senate move to protect Illinoisans with pre-existing conditions

pre exist 052917SPRINGFIELD – As Washington sends mixed signals about the future of affordable health care for millions of Americans, the Illinois Senate on Friday voted to bar health insurance companies from denying coverage to Illinoisans with pre-existing conditions.

House Bill 2959 garnered bipartisan support in the Senate’s 46-5 vote. The measure now has been approved in both the Senate and the House; it is expected to be sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner for consideration.

“This legislation guarantees that health insurance companies may not discriminate based on pre-existing conditions – something that roughly half of all non-elderly Americans have, according to the federal government,” said Senator Daniel Biss, an Evanston Democrat and the Senate sponsor of the legislation. Rep. Laura Fine (D-Glenview) sponsored it in the House.

On May 4, Congress passed the American Health Care Act 217-213, which would allow states to opt out of community ratings in the individual markets. These ratings provide a way of spreading risk by setting rates for health insurance among a geographic area regardless of age, gender or health status.

Under the act, if this restriction is removed, states could vary premiums by health status for people who have had a gap in insurance of 63 or more consecutive days in the past year. The state would be required to set up a program for subsidizing high-risk patients, either through a reinsurance system that would pay money directly to insurers or by setting up a high-risk pool. The state would not be required to provide insurance coverage for these patients.

Last week, the Congressional Budget Office released findings that the state waivers allowed by the bill pending in Congress could lead to skyrocketing premiums for people with pre-existing conditions, such as an extra $1,000 per month for maternity coverage in states that waive certain coverage regulations for insurers. Additionally, the CBO found that many people with pre-existing conditions simply would be priced out of coverage in states that use the waivers.

“While it’s unclear how all of these changes in Washington will shake out in the end, Illinois has too much at stake to sit idly by and wait to see what will happen,” Biss said.

“House Bill 2959 will help to protect vulnerable Illinoisans who rely on the ACA and are at risk of losing their coverage with no other affordable options available to them. Gov. Rauner should sign this measure into law so that we can provide a crucial protection for many of our constituents all over the state.”

Biss, Senate say no to lucrative tax loophole for wealth managers

biss 031517 2SPRINGFIELD – A measure that would bring fairness to Illinois’ income tax system, close the wealth divide and help to resolve the state’s budget crisis passed in the Senate this week.

Senate Bill 1719, sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), would close the carried interest loophole that enables ultra-wealthy hedge fund and private equity managers to avoid paying millions of dollars in Illinois taxes.

“Wealthy hedge fund managers are exploiting an archaic tax loophole and profiting off the backs of Illinois taxpayers,” Biss said. “We have a corrupt tax system in which ordinary people aren’t receiving the government services they help to pay for because the state is broke, in part because of a tax loophole that helps the rich get richer.”

The legislation would establish a 20 percent privilege tax on a former of compensation known as carried interest beginning July 1, 2017. The tax is on the fees earned from the investment strategy of the investment manager, not on the investment itself.

Estimates are that the legislation annually could generate between $473 million and $1.7 billion for the state.

Amisha Patel, executive director of Grassroots Collaborative, a Chicago-based organization, commended Biss and the Illinois Senate for passing the legislation.

“This is great news for Illinois residents who have been languishing under an extended budget impasse,” Patel said. “Illinois needs new revenue. Senate Bill 1719 generates significant revenue, raising it from those who have profited for years off a rigged tax system, instead of asking for more sacrifices from our most vulnerable residents.”

Biss said this is just another step toward correcting inequities that are baked into Illinois’ tax system.

“There is no reason for the State of Illinois to aid billionaires in finding ways to shelter their income,” he said. “Everyone should have to pay their fair share of income taxes. And if lawmakers in Congress won’t help us right this wrong, we’ll have to do it ourselves.”

Biss: We cannot trust Rauner with the power to overhaul Medicaid

biss 051717SPRINGFIELD – Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) issued the following statement regarding Gov. Bruce Rauner’s role in implementing the package of bills considered today by the Illinois Senate:

“Gov. Rauner expects lawmakers to give him unchecked freedom to overhaul the state’s Medicaid program that insures the poorest Illinois children and senior citizens, but he’s given us absolutely no reason to trust his judgment about what’s best for the people of Illinois.

“Gov. Rauner has refused to do his job and introduce a balanced budget and instead has claimed in public to support bipartisan Senate negotiations while secretly torpedoing that same work. We have no reason to trust him with carte blanche authority to destroy our safety net and punish the most vulnerable.

“I am not willing to give Gov. Rauner emergency rulemaking authority to implement Trumpcare in Illinois or cause undocumented children to lose coverage.

“In the meantime, Gov. Rauner is doing his best to dismantle the Community Care Program that tens of thousands of seniors rely on to live in dignity in their homes, and I cannot support a budget that facilitates his efforts to do just that.

“Our state urgently needs a budget, and I will continue to do all I can to move us toward a fair budget resolution that adequately funds our priorities. I stand ready to work with anyone toward that goal, and I am prepared to compromise.

“But I will not accept the premise that we must balance our budget on the backs of senior citizens and the poor.”

Biss advances student loan protections despite industry push-back

lecture hallSPRINGFIELD – As the White House rolls back federal protections for student loan borrowers across the nation, the Illinois State Senate sent a clear message Wednesday that it won’t succumb to pressure from loan services and their lobbyists.

Legislation sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) that would establish a student loan bill of rights in Illinois and help to protect students from predatory college lenders passed in the Senate Wednesday.

“The fact that the student loan industry sent high-powered lobbyists to Springfield to fight against these practical, commonsense protections for middle- and low-income families tells me that we’re on the right track with this legislation,” Biss said.

“Students are drowning in debt the second they complete their education. It can take decades to dig out from that kind of financial burden, and quite often students quickly fall behind on their payments or end up in default. This is no way to start a life, a career or a family.”

Senator Daniel Biss

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9th Senate District

Years served: 2011 - 2012 (House); 2013 - 2018 (Senate)

Committee assignments: Education; Environment and Conservation; Executive Appointments; Human Services; Labor (Chairperson); Revenue.

Biography: Full-time legislator; former University of Chicago math professor; doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and undergraduate degree from Harvard University. Served one term in the House before his election to the Senate. Resides in Evanston with his wife, Karin, and their children, Elliot and Theodore. Co-chair of a bipartisan pensions working group in the House and chair of the Digital Divide Elimination Advisory Committee.