CHICAGO (WCIA) – Thanks to Governor J.B. Pritzker’s signature, Illinoisans can see major changes to their healthcare.

The governor signed the Healthcare Protection Act into law at a news conference Wednesday. The bill was one of Pritzker’s major legislative priorities of the year.

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“For thousands of Illinoisans, the reforms in this bill will mean the difference between people suffering with curable health conditions and getting the care they need in a timely manner” Pritzker said at the conference. “For some, this bill, will quite literally, save their lives.”

The law makes step therapy, when an insurance company only covers a less expensive treatment rather than the treatment a doctor prescribes to their patient until it’s proven to not work for the patient, illegal for insurance providers.

The law now also bans insurance companies from requiring prior authorization for mental health treatments, which is a requirement from health insurance companies that the patient get the permission of their provider for a treatment their doctor already prescribed.

“This legislation will put power back in the hands of patients,” Illinois Speaker of the House Chris Welch said Wednesday at a news conference signing the bill.

Short-term health insurance plans, or “junk insurance plans” according to the Governor, will be banned, too. The plans do not follow the same regulations as normal health insurance plans. 

Finally, the bill also addresses network adequacy and ghost networks. In 2022, WCIA published a series investigating Blue Cross Blue Shield’s ghost networks in Central Illinois. The Illinois Department of Insurance has fined Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois twice in 2023 for not following the Network Adequacy and Transparency Act.

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The law goes into effect January 1.