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Gov. Quinn: Group to address health care workforce

CHICAGO (AP) -- Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said Saturday that he's taking steps to ensure the state has enough qualified health care workers to meet demand as hundreds of thousands of uninsured residents become eligible for coverage under the new health care law.

Quinn announced the creation of the Health Care Workforce Workgroup, headed by Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck. He said the group will assess and plan for the health care jobs needed to serve the state's growing and increasingly aging and diverse population.

The Chicago Democrat made the announcement on the third anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's signature health care overhaul.

"In President Obama's home state, we are taking full advantage of this historic opportunity to increase access to health care and create thousands of good-paying jobs," Quinn said. "The (Affordable Care Act) will help bring affordable health coverage to hundreds of thousands of people in Illinois. We want to make sure our veterans, students and everyone who is looking for new career opportunities will be able to take advantage of the new health care jobs available."

The Affordable Care Act allowed for the creation of health insurance exchanges, an online marketplace where people can shop for insurance. State officials estimate 486,000 Illinois residents will get coverage from commercial insurers through the state's exchange in 2014. By 2016 that figure is expected to reach 1 million.

Hundreds of thousands more residents could become eligible for Medicaid, the government health program for the poor and disabled, if the Illinois Legislature approves a federally subsidized expansion of the program.

The increase in the number of insured is creating career opportunities for thousands of people, Hasbrouck said.

The group will include representatives from the departments of veteran's affairs, aging, employment securities and human services as well as the University of Illinois College of Medicine. The group will recommend a workforce action plan by September, Quinn said.