Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Governor Quinn Signs Law to Preserve Health Care Benefits for State Retirees PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Nafia Khan   
Monday, 25 June 2012 07:26

Senate Bill 1313 a Step in Restoring Fiscal Stability to Illinois

CHICAGO – June 21, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today signed a bill into law to help ensure that state of Illinois retirees will continue to receive access to quality health care, while also lowering the cost to taxpayers. Illinois currently offers free health insurance to retirees after 20 years or more of service, at a time when no other state offers a healthcare benefit of this size.

“Those who have faithfully served the state deserve access to quality health care, and insurance costs should be more balanced and based on actual retirement income,” Governor Quinn said. “We also have a duty to taxpayers to ensure these plans are cost-efficient and put Illinois on the path to fiscal stability.”

Introduced at the request of Governor Quinn, Senate Bill 1313 passed the General Assembly with bi-partisan support. Sponsored by Sen. Jeff Schoenberg (D-Evanston) and House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), SB 1313 was also supported by Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) and House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego).

The purpose of the new law is to increase fiscal responsibility by requiring all state retirees to help with the cost of health care based on their ability to pay. Currently, retired legislators receive free health insurance after four years, retired judges after six years, and retired state and university employees after 20 years of service. The result is that approximately 90 percent of retirees are not contributing anything for the cost of their health insurance. The annual cost to taxpayers is nearly $800 million. This law ensures the state will be able to continue offering quality healthcare coverage for retired employees, while making healthcare benefits more affordable for taxpayers.

Many Midwestern states, including Iowa and Minnesota, do not provide any subsidy for retired employees. Instead, they provide access to their plans and leave the entire cost to be paid by the retiree. Other states offer a very limited subsidy. For example, Florida offers retirees a monthly subsidy of $150, while the retiree covers the remaining cost. While some states utilize a formula similar to Illinois’, where the amount of the subsidy is based upon years of service, no comparable state offers free health insurance after 20 years. This law allows Illinois to continue offering affordable health insurance that is based on a retiree’s ability to pay and length of state service.

While the bill goes into effect July 1, final decisions on rates will be made following labor negotiations and approval by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. Please see the attached document for quotes from the bill’s sponsors, as well as General Assembly leadership.

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Legislator Quotes

“This is a year for difficult choices, and passing this bill is the first of many. While I take no joy in the loss of a benefit for hard working retirees, I am proud of our efforts to stabilize the state budget for now and the future,” said Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago).

“I have a lot of compassion for those people who retired anticipating a certain benefit that now may be changed somewhat,” said Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont). “Having said that, this is a step Illinois must take to right the financial ship. Without critical reforms, the current structure is unsustainable, and taxpayers are on the hook for programs they cannot afford. Senate Bill 1313 is critical to accomplishing the goal of fiscal stability.”

“This important step was absolutely necessary to protect the quality and affordability of health insurance for retirees from public employment, particularly those living on fixed incomes who have no other coverage,” said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Jeff Schoenberg (D-Evanston), who was the sponsor of SB 1313.

“Close to 80,000 state retirees do not pay a premium for their healthcare; we simply cannot afford that anymore,” said Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego). “I commend the Governor and other leaders in the General Assembly for supporting this important reform that will bring more fiscal stability to the state. These new premiums will be negotiated by the administration and labor unions, who will come to an agreement that is fair for the taxpayers and the retirees.”

 
Center for Rural Affairs prepared to Comment on U.S. Supreme Court Affordable Care Act Ruling PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Elisha Smith   
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 14:02
Lyons, NE - Either Thursday, June 21st or Monday, June 25th the Supreme Court will likely release their ruling on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act.

Rural policy experts with the Center for Rural Affairs will be available for comment on the outcome of the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Since 2008, the Center for Rural Affairs has become the leading voice for health care reform in rural America. The Center played an instrumental role in winning support for the Affordable Care Act from key swing votes in the Midwest and Great Plains region.

The Center has authored a series of 16 reports dealing with how health care reform and the Affordable Care Act is impacting rural America. Visit http://www.cfra.org/policy/health-care/research to review or download earlier Center for Rural Affairs health care reports.

WHO: Center for Rural Affairs rural health policy experts will be available to comment on the Supreme Court’s ruling when the Court issues its decision.

WHEN: Either Thursday June 21st or Monday, June 25th.

 
SBHCC Announces Results of Small Business Poll On the Affordable Care Act PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Kathleen Duffy   
Tuesday, 19 June 2012 13:06
RELEASES RESULTS OF IL HEALTH CARE POLLS OF SMALL BUSINESSES, CALLS ON GOVERNOR QUINN TO ACT NO MATTER WHAT THE SUPREME COURT DECIDES
ILLINOIS – The newly formed Small Business Health Care Consortium (SBHCC) announced today the results of recent Illinois polls regarding the small business provision of the Affordable Care Act  and their call for Governor Quinn to establish an Illinois Insurance Exchange with key principle provisions by issuing an executive order.
The polls, conducted in conjunction with the Small Business Majority, found that:
  • 63% of Illinois small business owners want to see the Affordable Care Act upheld, with minor or no changes. After learning more about the specifics of the law, support for keeping it as is or with minor changes rose to 68%.
  • A 73% majority of small business owners say they would use or consider using the state exchange, and seven out of 10 Illinois small business owners support the state in applying for federal aid under the Affordable Care Act to set one up.
  • A majority of business owners say they’d be likely to purchase health care for their employees through a state exchange because it is the only place they can receive a tax credit beginning in 2014. 64% of those polled said qualifying for the tax credit would make them more likely to provide or continue offering coverage to employees.
(Links: IL ACA Poll Mini Report and ACA Wrapup poll)
Small businesses are the backbone of Illinois’s economy. In 2010, 203,600 businesses in Illinois had 25 or fewer workers, according to the Small Business Majority. The SBHCC, formed earlier this year, represents the voice of small business leaders throughout Illinois on health care reform.
Present SBHCC Steering Committee members include the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Women Business Owners – Chicago Chapter, McCormick Chamber of Commerce, Women’s Business Development Center, and small businesses including Old Mexico Restaurant (Rock Island), Gregg Florist (Peoria), Wirehead Technology (Chicago), Second Act Cancer Recovery Boutique (Chicago), MCCE Investments (Springfield), Linda Forman CPA PC (Evanston), and H.A King & Associates (Chicago.)
“Forming the Small Business Health Care Consortium to represent the diversity of small businesses throughout the state is overdue. I am working with the Small Business Health Care Consortium to ensure that all small businesses can afford health insurance,” said Howard Lee of Wire Technology in Chicago, a SBHCC steering committee member.
Another provision of the ACA is the development of a competitive healthcare marketplace, or insurance exchange, in each state. Small businesses want to support our employees and their families by being able to provide them with the quality, affordable healthcare they deserve, but the high costs make it difficult or impossible for many of us to do that. We need a strong marketplace to give us more control, quality choices, and better consumer protections when buying insurance - just like the big guys get.
Pattie Sheehan, Certified Mastectomy Fitter and sole proprietor of Second Act Mastectomy Boutique in Chicago, serves cancer patients and survivors. “Every day I see and hear from women who did not catch their cancer early because they did not have access to healthcare. Women who battle cancer also work at small businesses and that means that they are less likely to have health insurance coverage, just because their employer is small. It is time for the inequality of insurance access to be erased and for the needs of small businesses to be met so that our employees can afford good insurance. That is why I have joined the Steering Committee of the Small Business Health Care Consortium.”
Since 2010 under the ACA, companies with fewer than 25 employees and average employee wages of less than $50,000 can get tax credits for the health insurance they provide their employees. These tax breaks have already lightened the load on small businesses so we can get back to what we do best...creating jobs that will stay here in our communities.
“I am the owner of MCCE Investments and I also own several Subway stores in the Springfield area. The main reason I am spending time on this project, the Small Business Health Care Consortium, is to be sure small business has a voice in the process from the beginning. We have to be sure health care for all Americans is not done on the backs of small business but must be shared by all,” said Mark Burris.
“Contrary to political spin and popular belief, small business owners in Illinois do not want the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out the Affordable Care Act. Illinois small businesses see this law as helping everyone have coverage and bringing down healthcare costs—something that has been one of their top concerns for years.  We hope Supreme Court justices understand how important this law is to small businesses who need relief from high healthcare costs,” said Jim Duffett, Executive Director of the Campaign for Better Health Care.
Duffett continued, “Since the General Assembly has abdicated its responsibilities, Governor Quinn needs to step up to the plate and enact an Executive Order to begin the process for an Illinois Marketplace (exchange). Small businesses are committed in taking personal responsibility; it is time for our political leaders to do the same.”
Right now, Illinois could access over $200 million in federal funds to implement the new marketplace. It won't cost the state a penny if we use these federal funds. This past legislative session, the General Assembly took no action on implementing a marketplace in Illinois. This means the federal government will implement one for us, unless Governor Quinn takes immediate action.
David Whitaker, Chair of the Health Committee for the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce, said “Small businesses are diverse throughout Illinois and yet we all have the same problem when it comes to buying health insurance—it is very difficult and we spend more for it than larger businesses. The Illinois General Assembly failed this past session to enact legislation to establish an Illinois marketplace, or insurance exchange. It is time for action and leadership.”

“The SBHCC is calling on Governor Quinn to sign an executive order to set the standard for this
marketplace and it must include the following principles:

1) No insurance industry representataives on the Governing Board.
2) The right to negotiate rates with insurers - there must be real cost containment measures.
3) The Insurance industry must pay for the Marketplace, not small businesses and consumers.”
Joyce Harant, SBHCC Project Director said, "Small business owners are so busy keeping their businesses operating that they have very little time to navigate what is happening about health care reform.  Most of them wish they could afford health insurance for their employees and yet when the rubber meets the road, for many of them the obstacles are too great.  My hope is that we can learn the needs of small business owners and, in a collective way, make sure their needs and opinions are heard and become part of the legislation passed in Illinois."
Full statements by small business owners on today's telebriefing are available via This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  The audio of today's telebriefing is available on the Campaign for Better Health Care's Audio Archive.
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About the Small Business Health Care Consortium
The Small Business Health Care Consortium (SBHCC), a project of the Campaign for Better Health Care, represents the voice of small business leaders throughout Illinois on health care reform.  For more information, please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , SBHCC Project Director.
About the Campaign for Better Health Care
We believe that accessible, affordable, quality health care is a basic human right for ALL people.  The Campaign for Better Health Care is the state’s largest coalition representing over 300 diverse organizations, organizing to help create and advocate for an accessible, quality health care system for all.  For more information, visit www.cbhconline.org.

 
Governor Quinn Announces State Efforts to Keep Residents Safe During High Temperatures PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Nafia Khan   
Monday, 18 June 2012 14:39

Urges Illinoisans to take precautions, check on elderly

CHICAGO – June 18, 2012. With hot weather forecasted across Illinois this week, Governor Pat Quinn today announced services available throughout the state to protect people from the heat. The Governor also encouraged residents to check on family members and neighbors who are vulnerable to hot weather, including the elderly and children.

“Rising temperatures like those we’re expecting in the days ahead can be extremely dangerous, especially for elderly residents and children,” Governor Quinn said. “I urge people to take steps to stay safe and cool. If you have children, or elderly neighbors or relatives, please check on them regularly to make sure they are safe.”

The state has opened more than 120 cooling centers around Illinois, in order to help those without air conditioning find respite from the heat. The cooling centers are located at Illinois Department of Human Services offices throughout the state, as well as at Illinois Tollway Oases in the Chicago area. Cooling centers are open to the public during regular business hours, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call the Illinois Department of Human Services hotline at (800) 843-6154, or visit, http://www2.illinois.gov/KeepCool/Pages/coolingcenters.aspx for locations.

“High temperatures and humidity can lead to serious health problems, particularly for the elderly and young children,” Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health said. “If the body does not cool properly or does not cool enough, a person may suffer a range of heat-related illnesses from, heat rash to heatstroke, which can be fatal.”

Governor Quinn and the IDPH are encouraging Illinoisans to watch for signs of heat-related illnesses. Symptoms of heat-related illness include headaches, skin that is hot to the touch, increased body temperature, loss of consciousness, seizures and irregular heartbeats.

To stay cool and avoid illness, people should increase their fluid intake but avoid drinks with caffeine, alcohol and sugar; decrease strenuous, outdoor physical activity; and remain in air-conditioning when possible.

The Illinois Department on Aging also encourages relatives and friends to make daily visits or calls to senior citizens living alone. When temperatures and humidity are extremely high, seniors and people with chronic health conditions should be monitored for dehydration and other effects of extreme heat. Additionally, seniors should eat lighter meals, take longer and more frequent rests, and drink plenty of fluids.

For information about heat preparedness, visit the Ready Illinois website at www.Ready.Illinois.gov.

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The Prostate Cancer Screening Debate PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Hawkeye Caucus   
Friday, 15 June 2012 13:53

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has issued new recommendations against routine prostate cancer screening.  The USPSTF now recommends that regardless of age, men without symptoms should not routinely have the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test to screen for prostate cancer.

The recommendation has raised concerns among health care specialists. Some say the task force based its recommendation on flawed data.

The American Cancer Society recommends that men discuss the possible risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening with their doctor before deciding whether to be screened.  The discussion about screening should take place at age 50 for men who are at average risk of prostate cancer and at age 45 for men who are at higher risk, including African-American men and men who have a father or brother diagnosed with prostate cancer.

QUOTE/UNQUOTE

Karl Kreder, M.D., professor and head, UI Department of Urology: “It is very important to recognize that there are side effects to prostate cancer treatments and those do need to be taken into account.  Men need to talk with their physician to determine if they should be screened, and how to proceed if prostate cancer is detected.  For some men, monitoring the progression of their disease is appropriate, but if the cancer is aggressive and fast-growing, treatments can extend survival.”

DID YOU KNOW?
UI researchers are working to develop a prostate cancer vaccine.  Prostate cancer is the most common cause of cancer deaths in men over age 75. If the patient’s type of prostate cancer is less aggressive and slower to grow, the patient could die of another cause before the prostate tumor would cause a problem.  More information is available online at: http://www.uihealthcare.org/Clinic.aspx?id=3634.

 
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