Governor signs bill aimed at reducing health care inequities statewide

The new law provides $150 million in state and federal money annually.

SHARE Governor signs bill aimed at reducing health care inequities statewide
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Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs the Healtcare and Hospital Transformation Bill Friday at The Loretto Hospital in the Austin neighborhood. | Stefano Esposito, Chicago Sun-Times.

Calling it a “giant leap forward” in the mission to reduce inequities across Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker Friday signed into law the Healthcare and Hospital Transformation bill.

The law, which passed the Illinois General Assembly earlier this year, provides $150 million in state and federal money for the current fiscal year to bridge gaps in health care statewide, especially in under-served communities, its supporters say.

“Make no mistake, this legislation is a win for all Illinoisans, but none will benefit more than those who have been disproportionately hurt by COVID-19 — from our Black and Brown neighborhoods to our rural communities of every background to other historically under-served communities,” Pritzker said, speaking at The Loretto Hospital in Austin.

The money is aimed primarily at hospitals and clinics in poorer neighborhoods and regions of the state, as well as those areas hardest hit by the pandemic.

It’s expected to be used to set up and pay for programs that might, for example, help educate people about the importance of healthy eating in communities struggling with obesity.

Agencies and other groups must submit proposals for the funding before April 9. For organizations not yet ready to apply — or those that might need help in doing so — the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services is planning to offer assistance in the coming months for those wishing to apply for later rounds of funding.

“This creates an opportunity for communities across the state to come up with health care solutions that reduce disparities, are community focused and remove obstacles that exist to accessing quality care,” House Majority Leader Greg Harris, D-Chicago, said in a statement. “If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that we need to prioritize a health care system that reaches all Illinoisans, and these collaboratives will work to do just that.”

Illinois Health and Hospital Association Chief Executive A.J. Wilhelmi, who was at Friday’s bill signing, has said he hopes the legislation will “reduce health disparities and inequities that have been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in communities of color.”

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