ON THE RECORD: State Sen. Dave Koehler pushing legislation to make insurance companies pay back excess profits

On The Record

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — “While insurance companies and managed care organizations see record-setting profits at the height of a global pandemic, rural communities across the state are experiencing unsustainable strain in their health care systems due to lack of resources,” State Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) said.

During “On the Record with Matt Sheehan,” Koehler said if his bill is passed, it could provide $340 million a month for hospitals around the state.

Koehler cited the auto insurance industry as one example of where this idea has worked.

“People aren’t driving as much, so we’re going to give some premium back to our customers,” Koehler said. “In the same way, we see cable companies doing the same thing. We know by talking to healthcare providers, healthcare services have been down even though COVID has been up. Elective surgeries and all that has been down, so we’re saying, let’s take some of that money that goes to for-profit managed care organizations and put it back where it’s most desperately needed, especially the rural hospitals.”

“When we reach that critical mass of people who have taken the vaccine and we see the numbers coming down, which they are right now, which we’re grateful for that, but we’re still in the midst of this. But I think it’ll take probably in the middle of the spring for us to see that there really is light at the end of that tunnel,”

State sen. dave koehler (d) il-46

Koehler said this funding would help hospitals be able to handle the COVID-19 patient load more effectively. He said the $340 million a month would ensure Medicaid recipients have access to the right kind of healthcare.

“We spend $16 billion a year on for-profit managed care organizations, they can afford to give a little bit back,” Koehler added.

Koehler said the vaccine is definitely showing hope in Illinois, but we still have months to go until things return to “normal.”

“When we reach that critical mass of people who have taken the vaccine and we see the numbers coming down, which they are right now which we’re grateful for that, but we’re still in the midst of this. But I think it’ll take probably in the middle of the spring for us to see that there really is light at the end of that tunnel,” Koehler said.

He said it would depend a lot on how many people are going to take the vaccine, saying he and his family will happily take the vaccine when it is their turn.

Congressional leaders approved a stimulus package of $900 billion which gives $600 stimulus checks to most Americans, extends unemployment benefits, provides relief for schools, and revives the Paycheck Protection Program.

Koehler said this package is much-needed and long overdue.

“It will be very well-received, and it’s just in time,” Koehler said. “(Unemployment) Benefits run out at the end of the month.”

19 Democratic State Representatives have decided they will not support House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) to continue being Speaker of the House. Koehler said he doesn’t want to get involved in the House’s business, but said there has been a rule change in the Senate where no Senate President or Minority Leader can serve more than 10 years.

“We did not have any House members when we selected a new Senate President,” Sen. Koehler said.

Koehler said that rule change was not passed by the House, but that it would be a “wise thing to do.”

Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) was recently elected President of the Illinois Senate.

Harmon, who has been in the Senate since 2002, took over as President in January 2020 after beating Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford (D-Hillside). This came after former President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) retired from the position.

In a separate interview on Dec. 7, 2020, Koehler said Harmon has shown the ability to lead in a strong manner.

“He’s carried a lot of the heavy lifted bills in the Senate, he knows government inside and out. He takes care of the caucus. He’s very personable in terms of his relationships and his word is good. If he tells you something you can put it in the bank,” Koehler said.

Koehler echoed his sentiment on this week’s On the Record with Matt Sheehan, saying he has done “a good job with a very diverse caucus.”

“We have 41 members now going into the new legislative season,” Koehler said. “It takes someone with a lot of skills like being able to listen, being able to negotiate and compromise, and Don has shown that he has been extremely good at that.”

The Illinois State Legislature is set to reconvene on Jan. 13, 2021.

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