Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Governor Quinn Announces $30.5 Million for Community Health Centers Throughout Illinois PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Katelyn Tye   
Thursday, 01 September 2011 07:57

Capital Funds Will Help Improve Health Care Access in Underserved Communities, Create Jobs

CHICAGO – August 31, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today announced $30.5 million from the capital program to build and renovate 14 community health centers throughout Illinois. The Illinois Jobs Now! funding will help the state to improve health outcomes for medically underserved Illinoisans, reduce health care spending and save taxpayers money. The projects are expected to create around 215 jobs.

“These capital funds are critical in helping us increase community-based health care,” Governor Quinn said. “We are investing in the health and wellness of the people of Illinois, and these community health centers reflect the emphasis I have placed on helping people get the care they need as close to where they live and work as possible.”

The Community Health Center Construction Act, sponsored by Sen. James F. Clayborne Jr. (D-Belleville) and Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), was signed into law by Governor Quinn in 2009. The Act enables communities to renovate dilapidated buildings, convert vacant commercial space, construct new health center sites, and provide equipment for additional health services such as OB/GYN and dental. 

Funding for the projects are included in Governor Quinn’s Illinois Jobs Now! capital construction program, and will be administered through the state’s Capital Development Board. In addition to providing needed health care facilities, the projects are expected to create about 215 construction jobs.

The 14 community health centers receiving grants include:

  • Erie Family Health Centers Inc.: $2.2 million to improve two existing primary care sites to serve Chicago’s greater Humboldt Park and West Town communities.
  • Lawndale Christian Health Center: $3 million to build a health and wellness center that will serve Lawndale and neighboring communities on Chicago’s west side.
  • Central Counties Health Centers: $3 million to build a 24,000-square-foot addition to its current facility that will serve Springfield and the surrounding area.
  • Rural Health Inc., Anna: $1.74 million to renovate existing space and build new space to serve Union and Johnson County residents.
  • Asian Human Services Family Health Center, Chicago: $2.18 million to build a new facility adjacent to its current West Ridge site.
  • Christian Community Health Center: $3 million to relocate its Calumet City Clinic.
  • Community Health Improvement Center, Champaign: $363,390 to remodel and expand existing space and purchase dental equipment.
  • Heartland International Health Center, Chicago: $3 million to build a health center in Rogers Park and renovate the Uptown Community Health Center.
  • Greater Elgin Family Care Center: $2.67 million to build a new Streamwood Health Center, expanding the existing Adult Clinic, and expanding the Sherman Hospital Medical Office.
  • Aunt Martha’s Service Center: $641,097 to renovate the Carpenters Health Center and the House Comprehensive Resource Center to serve the Carpentersville and Aurora areas.
  • Mercy Family Health Center: $3 million to build a new medical facility at Oakwood Shores Residential Community on Chicago’s near south side.
  • PCC Community Wellness Center: $691,299 to relocate and renovate its current facility that will serve Chicago’s western suburban communities.
  • Shawnee Health Service and Development Corporation, Carbondale: $1.9 million to build a new dental facility and renovate its existing building into medical exam rooms.
  • Alivio Medical Center, Berwyn: $3 million to build a new medical center with services for a wide variety of needs.

Community health centers are nonprofit entities created by Congress to meet the health care needs of underserved communities and high-risk patients. These centers fill a void by providing care for those who often are not served by other providers, including individuals who are low-income, the uninsured or homeless, or people with HIV/AIDS, substance abuse problems or special medical needs.

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Governor Quinn Signs Legislation to Strengthen Rights for Consumers Denied or Dropped by Health Insurers PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Katelyn Tye   
Monday, 29 August 2011 09:10

New Law Permits Independent Review of Health Insurance Rescissions and Denials for Pre-Existing Conditions

CHICAGO – August 26, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation to strengthen the state’s Health Carrier External Review Act, which allows a consumer to appeal certain health insurance claim denials to independent review organizations approved by the Illinois Department of Insurance (DOI). House Bill 224 ensures that Illinois law conforms to numerous minimum consumer protections required by federal law.  

“Too many Illinois patients and their families have paid expensive premiums for health insurance only to see coverage dropped or denied, often when it is needed most,” Governor Quinn said. “This new law will help protect individuals – especially those with pre-existing conditions – by increasing fairness in the process.” 

The Health Carrier External Review Act, which was passed by the Illinois General Assembly in 2009, requires health insurance companies to establish and maintain external review procedures that allow a consumer to appeal the denial of certain health insurance claims to independent review organizations. Independent review organizations are composed of medical experts and are approved by the DOI.

The federal Affordable Care Act mandates that all state external review laws must meet certain minimum consumer protections, including the timeframe in which a decision must be reached or who can assign an independent review organization to review an appeal. State external review laws that fail to meet these minimum consumer protections will be pre-empted by a federal external review process.

House Bill 224 amends Illinois’ external review law to meet the required consumer protections. The law also extends Illinois’ external review rights to consumers whose coverage has been rescinded or who have been denied a benefit due to a pre-existing health condition. 

Rescission refers to the practice of canceling coverage for individuals. Rescission sometimes occurs after a consumer files a claim, putting their coverage into effect; the practice can leave a patient suddenly uncovered by insurance after an expensive procedure has already taken place.  Illinois has far more rescissions than any state in the United States and, per capita, is second only to New Mexico.

Sponsored by Rep. Mary E. Flowers (D-Chicago) and Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), House Bill 224 was an initiative of the Illinois Department of Insurance and is based on model law adopted by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) through a public process with stakeholders including consumers, health care providers, health insurers and insurance agents.

“This is a significant step in providing stronger recourse for individuals facing rescissions or denials due to pre-existing conditions,” Rep. Flowers said.  “This new law protects consumers and brings Illinois law in line with federal requirements.”

House Bill 224 goes into effect immediately.

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Transparency of medical researchers' financial ties PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Grassley Press   
Thursday, 25 August 2011 10:01

This week, the federal government is releasing the final version of long-awaited transparency rules to disclose the financial ties between medical researchers who receive billions of dollars in federal funding and the pharmaceutical industry.  On Aug. 4, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa urged the government not to dilute the rules.  Grassley’s prior oversight uncovered several instances of such financial relationships that were not public. Grassley’s letter to the Office of Management and Budget came in response to a media report that the agency was removing the requirement in the proposed rule for a publicly available website that would publish the outside financial interests of researchers funded by taxpayers.  The final rules include the diluted, weak requirement:  Information about an individual with a significant financial interest in the subject of a federally funded research project must be disclosed via a publicly accessible website or via written response to any requestor within five business days.  Grassley made the following comment on the final rules.

“Making the method of disclosure optional hurts public access.  An institution that doesn’t want to disclose information readily will be able to opt for the written request, knowing that requiring a request in writing is a barrier.  It’s easier to look up information online than have to find the right addressee, write the letter, and wait for a response.  This is a missed opportunity to inject transparency where it’s really needed.  With less public scrutiny than we could have had, we’ll lose a valuable layer of oversight.  This is ironic, coming from an Administration that pledged more transparency in government.  Transparency requires action, not just words.”

The final rules are available here.

The text of Grassley’s Aug. 4 letter is available here.

The text of Grassley’s Aug. 4 news release follows below.

For Immediate Release
Thursday, August 4, 2011

Grassley Urges Agency Not to Weaken Federal Health Research Transparency Rule

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley today urged a key federal agency not to dilute a long-awaited transparency rule that would help disclose financial ties between medical researchers who receive billions of dollars in federal funding and the pharmaceutical industry.

"The public's business ought to be public," Grassley said.  "Transparency is a backstop against research that's compromised by doctors' self-interest, to the detriment of consumers.  Backsliding on transparency would undermine the good work done in recent years to shine a light on these financial relationships."

Grassley wrote to the Office of Management and Budget in response to a media report that the agency is proposing to weaken transparency rules proposed in May 2010 by the Department of Health and Human Services.  According to the article, the Office of Management and Budget is removing the requirement in the proposed rule for a publicly available website that would publish the outside financial interests of researchers funded by taxpayers. 

The Department of Health and Human Services includes the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is the primary means of federal funding of medical research at universities and large medical centers.  The President's proposed budget for the National Institutes of Health for 2012 is $32 billion, with about 83 percent dedicated for research around the country.

In 2007, Grassley began looking into whether universities have disclosed their professors' outside financial interests and found several cases indicating that more transparency might be helpful, including:

--The chair of the Psychiatry Department at Emory University failed to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments from a pharmaceutical company while researching that same company's drugs with an NIH grant.  The Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General is now investigating the matter.

--The chair of the Psychiatry Department at Stanford University received an NIH grant to study a drug while partially owning a company that was seeking Food and Drug Administration approval of said drug.  He was later removed from the grant.

--Three psychiatrists at Harvard University failed to report almost a million dollars each in outside income while heading up several NIH grants.  Harvard released a report on the matter, and a briefing has been scheduled with Grassley's office.

Also, the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services concluded that the NIH doesn't adequately monitor its outside grants for conflicts of interest.

A law enacted last year through Grassley and Sen. Herb Kohl will require public disclosure of drug company and medical device manufacturer payments to doctors, starting in March 2013. 

The rule proposed for NIH grants would require the research institutions to determine potential conflicts of interest grant by grant, such as whether the doctor owns shares in a company that could cause bias in his or her federally funded research.  The details would have to be posted online for public access. The Office of Management and Budget is proposing to eliminate the online requirement, according to a media article. 

"If the online requirement is gone, it will be much harder for the public to see and use this information," Grassley said. "Without public scrutiny, we'd lose a valuable layer of oversight."

The text of Grassley's letter is available here.

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Second Phase of Extensive Construction Project Reaches Completion PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Erin McConaughey   
Tuesday, 23 August 2011 10:21

Hammond-Henry Hospital to hold open house for South Services Building

Geneseo, IL – A milestone event will take place on Sunday, August 28th for Hammond-Henry Hospital in Geneseo, IL. From 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. an open house will be held to commemorate the end of construction on the new South Services Building located at 600 N. College Avenue in Geneseo, IL. Press is invited to attend and encouraged to enter the hospital through the south entrance on College Avenue.

The South Services Building includes new locations for the clinical pharmacy, social services, home health services, material management, maintenance and IT areas. The second floor of the facility features areas for physical rehabilitation services such as physical therapy, cardiac rehabilitation, occupational therapy and speech therapy. This includes a state-of-the-art aquatic therapy pool, complete with treadmill, underwater observation cameras and a virtual lift. The rehabilitation suite also includes a rooftop therapy area.

The South Services Building is the second completed phase of the larger 73,000 s.f. Designed to be Patient Kind addition/renovation project that is currently taking place at Hammond-Henry Hospital. Construction on this phase began in August 2010. The remainder of the Patient Kind project phases, which includes demolition and renovation of the existing hospital, will be completed by October 2012.

“This is a big step in the project for us,” stated Brad Solberg, CEO of Hammond-Henry Hospital. “The design of this building goes a long way in meeting the needs of our patients, visitors and staff.”

Hammond-Henry Hospital was established in 1901, utilizing approximately 62 acute and long-term care beds and serves nearly 20,000 residents in the Geneseo, IL area. For more information on Hammond-Henry Hospital, please visit their website at www.hammondhenry.com.

Russell Construction, located in Davenport, IA, is serving as the Design/Builder and General Contractor on this new addition project. Shive-Hattery, located in Moline, IL is providing architect and engineering services. The Patient Kind Addition is the third project that Russell Construction has completed for Hammond-Henry Hospital since 2004. Previously, Russell constructed a 34,000 s.f. addition and renovation to their existing hospital in Geneseo, IL and a 3,500 s.f. medical office building in Colona, IL. For more information on Russell Construction, please visit their website at www.russellco.com.

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Governor Quinn Signs Legislation to Improve Access to Behavioral Health Care PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Andrew Mason   
Friday, 19 August 2011 08:20

Mental Health Parity, Regional Integrated Behavioral Health Networks among New Laws to Improve and Coordinate Behavioral Health Care 

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS – August 18, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today signed new laws designed to improve the quality of life for those needing behavioral health services and ensure equal access to necessary treatments. During a ceremony at the Alexian Brothers Center for Mental Health, the Governor signed House Bill 1530, which requires insurance companies to provide parity in coverage for mental health and substance abuse disorders, and House Bill 2982, which will help the state build regional networks to improve behavioral health care throughout Illinois. The laws build upon Illinois’ efforts to ensure equal access to health care for Illinois residents and coordinate care to improve outcomes.

“When we talk about access to health care, we want to make sure that we are including all types of care,” Governor Quinn said. “No one should be forced to forgo critical mental health care because of where they live or because their insurance charges more for the necessary treatment. These laws will increase equality throughout the state and advance our goal to improve the health of all Illinois residents.”

House Bill 1530, sponsored by Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) and Sen. Willie Delgado (D-Chicago), establishes mental health parity among health insurance policies. Insurance companies must now provide the same coverage for mental health and substance abuse disorders that they provide for all other conditions. Insurers are prevented from including additional barriers within the policy – such as financial requirements, treatment limitations, lifetime limits or annual limits – to treatments for mental, emotional, nervous and substance abuse disorders if no such stipulations exist for other health conditions. Illinois’ new law exceeds the requirements of the recently-enacted federal mental health parity law, and was a recommendation of the Governor’s Health Care Reform Implementation Council.

The Mental Health Services Strategic Planning Task Force is created under House Bill 2084, sponsored by Rep. Fred Crespo (D-Hoffman Estates) and Sen. Michael Noland (D-Elgin). The task force will develop a comprehensive strategic plan for the state's mental health and developmental disabilities services. The plan will address issues impacting mental health and developmental disabilities services, including: reducing regulatory redundancy; improving access to care; ensuring quality of care in all settings; and ensuring hospital and institutional care is available, when necessary, to meet demands now and in the future.

Senate Bill 1584, sponsored by Sen. Maggie Crotty (D-Oak Forest) and Rep. Al Riley (D-Olympia Fields), sets up community health advisory committees for counties and townships that have not already established community health boards. The legislation requires counties with less than 3,000,000 people and townships within counties with a population greater than 3,000,000 to appoint a volunteer seven-member health advisory committee made up of members of the general public if no community health board exists. 

Additionally, on Monday, Governor Quinn signed House Bill 2982, sponsored by Rep. Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford) and Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford), which creates Regional Integrated Behavioral Health Networks across Illinois to ensure and improve access to appropriate mental health and substance abuse services throughout the state, especially in rural communities. The networks will bring together relevant health, mental health, substance abuse entities and other community partners to coordinate services and ensure that each community’s behavioral health needs are being met.

These bills align with the goals of the State Health Improvement Plan (SHIP). The SHIP calls for Illinois to improve access to comprehensive health-related services, enhance data and information technology in the healthcare sectors, address the social factors affecting health and health disparities, manage and improve the public health system, and ensure sufficient workforce in the healthcare and public health fields. The SHIP is prevention-focused and centered on the following priority health concerns: alcohol/tobacco; use of illicit drugs/misuse of legal drugs; mental health; environment; obesity (including nutrition and physical activity); oral health; patient safety and quality, and unintentional injury and violence.

Also signed today, Senate Bill 1837, sponsored by Sen. Tom Johnson (R-West Chicago) and Rep. Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago), gives the Kane County Mental Health Court the authority to work with accredited mental health service providers to provide necessary services to defendants. It also requires the mental health court to assess its effectiveness and submit a report on the impact it has on reducing the number of mentally-ill people admitted into the state’s correctional system. The Kane County Mental Health Court was launched in February 2006 to reduce future criminal activity and improve public safety by preventing repeated incarceration of mentally ill, non-violent offenders.

Governor Quinn also approved House Bill 1317, sponsored by Rep. Crespo and Sen. Noland, which assists individuals with serious behavioral disorders and other disabilities by excusing them permanently from jury duty. Those seeking to be excluded from jury lists must present written proof from a licensed physician concluding that the individual has a total and permanent disability that prevents performance of the duties of a juror. The legislation mandates county boards, jury administrators and jury commissioners to create and maintain a list of persons to be permanently excluded jury lists.

House Bills 2084 and 1530 are effective immediately. House Bills 1317 and 2982 and Senate Bill 1837 take effect Jan. 1.

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