SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – State Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan, is aiming to promote reduced recidivism with a measure that would prevent insurance companies operating in Illinois from engaging in discrimination, denying coverage or charging higher premiums to applicants or insured people based on their status as a formerly convicted person.
“Once a convicted person has served their sentence and their debt to society is paid, it is time for them to re-enter society and become a productive citizen,” Mayfield said. “In order to do that, a person needs certain things, among them being the same types of insurance as you or I. But when insurance companies put up barriers to returning citizens’ accessing needed insurance—be it through significantly higher premiums or even outright denial of service—many of our fellow Illinoisans end up having that much more difficulty in re-integrating. Along with other factors such as difficulty in finding employment or housing, lower pay and social stigma; this inevitably results in some people failing to re-integrate and reoffending. This is a problem that is largely preventable.”
Mayfield’s House Bill 1068 would prohibit Illinois insurance companies from denying coverage, refusing to renew coverage or charging higher premiums or additional fees based on a person’s status as a convicted felon. The bill was amended after debate in the House Insurance Committee to provide that insurers are allowed to refuse coverage for felons while they are still incarcerated. Mayfield led the bill through committee, where it was approved by a 2-1 margin.
“If we want ex-convicts not to reoffend, then making it harder for them to get back on their feet after prison doesn’t make sense,” Mayfield said. “We say that we want these people to stop committing crimes, get a job and contribute to society, but then we trip them up and sabotage them when they try—and scratch our heads when some of them end up back in the system. That’s why this bill is so important. We really need to take a step back and ask ourselves if our policies match our stated priorities. In this case I don’t think they do, and I’m hopeful that this bill can improve things.”