Week in Review for 6/16/14 to 6/20/14

Health Care – Medicaid Expansion
Medicaid expansion bill signed by Governor. Many health care advocates have expressed concerns to the State about various payments made and not made, and treatments offered and not offered, within Medicaid under current law. SB 741 contains a complex package of changes to the Medicaid system negotiated by the State, hospitals, nursing homes and other medical care provider organizations. Some of these revisions are designed to draw in matching funds from the federal government, but the State and its taxpayers will also have to put up a stream of money. The annual cost of the changes contained within SB 741 is estimated as at least $221 million per year. Persons concerned about this bill believe the cost could be more accurately estimated at $275 million per year.

SB 741 will move many categories of patients from a traditional Medicaid billing and payment model to a managed-care model. It will create a new, supplemental series of payments to some groups of medical care providers, such as nursing homes, to further compensate them for the increased costs of providing various forms of specialized care to patients with intensive or long-term medical challenges. It will redeploy existing State workers to process the Medicaid eligibility of many patients who have standing for Medicaid designation as long-term patients. It will pay dentists’ bills and podiatrists’ bills for services provided to patients with Medicaid standing. It will provide some triage psychiatric care to patients without insurance coverage or private means. It will provide funding for the statewide Poison Control Center hotline.

Although this bill contains some attractive elements, it also rolls over and reauthorizes an existing State tax (the hospital ‘bed tax’), and does not contain a funding source for the increased demand on State general funds for the benefits authorized by the Act. SB 741 passed the House on a vote of 75-37-1; the Senate vote was 46-10-0; the bill was signed into law as Public Act 98-651.

Health Care – Obamacare
Illinois health care campaign among nation’s costliest. President Barack Obama's home state agreed to spend $33 million in federal money promoting his health care law, hiring a high-priced public relations firm for work that initially was mocked and spending far more per enrollee on television ads than any other large state.

After getting a late start and facing intense pressure to avoid more embarrassment for the much-maligned law, Illinois officials last summer inked the most lavish contract in the history of FleishmanHillard's Chicago office. The goal was getting uninsured residents to sign up for coverage.

More than 90 people, including executives from the firm and its subcontractors, billed at least $270 an hour for salary and overhead during the first four months. The Associated Press has more on this story here.

Senger calls for probe of Get Covered Illinois. A Republican lawmaker has called for investigations into spending costs associated with promoting President Barack Obama's health care law in Illinois.

The Associated Press reported that a key subcontractor working on the "Get Covered Illinois" campaign was owned by three former aides to powerful Democrats. The Southern Illinoisan reports the AP story here.

Local Government
Bost bill to repair Grand Tower Levee signed into law. Governor Quinn signed a bill into law Wednesday that will allow Jackson County to issue bonds in order to pay for the much-needed repairs to the Grand Tower Levee. Representative Mike Bost and Senator Dave Luechtefeld worked together to champion the bill through the General Assembly. 

“Today is a good day for the people of Grand Tower and Jackson County as a whole,” Rep. Bost said. “Thanks to the Governor’s signature, Jackson County will now be able to raise the necessary funds needed to repair the Grand Tower Levee.” 

In 1994, voters in Jackson County approved a referendum for the issuance of bonds to generate revenue needed to repair the Levee. Unfortunately, they failed to sell enough bonds and the timeline to sell the bonds expired. Earlier this year, Jackson County and the community of Grand Tower contacted Bost about working together to come up with a solution to their problem, which led to SB 2721. With the Governor’s approval of the bill, Jackson County will now be able to issue the bonds needed to raise an estimated $1.5 million to repair the Grand Tower Levee. 

Rep. Bost added, “Not only does the levee protect thousands of Southern Illinois residents, it also protects farmland, routes of transportation, and a critical gas line. If the levee were to break, it would be a disaster for our local economy. With the work of a bi-partisan group of committed officials, this law ensures that the people of Grand Tower and Jackson County will not have to worry about the worn-down levee any longer.” The Southern Illinoisan has more here.

Governor signs ban on police ticket quotas. Legislation to prohibit the use of ticket quotas by police departments in Illinois was signed by the Governor this week. The bill’s chief co-sponsor, Rep. John D. Anthony, a former Kendall County Sheriff’s deputy, led efforts to educate members of the House on the importance of prioritizing public safety in the administration of local law enforcement.

Senate Bill 3411 would prevent ticket quotas at any state, county and municipal police departments. It also states that departments would not be allowed to evaluate an officer's performance based on the number of citations they issue. SB 3411 passed the Senate on a 57-1 vote; it passed the House on a vote of 106-9-1 and was signed into law as Public Act 98-650.

“We are fortunate to have many of the finest, most dedicated and well-trained law enforcement officers here in Illinois,” Rep. Anthony said. “As a practical matter, the number of citations written by an individual officer should not be used as a job performance tool. We should trust the men and women of our police and sheriff’s departments to use their discretion on when tickets are warranted. Public safety should be the standard, not arbitrary quotas.” Please click here to read more on this story.

Neighborhood Recovery Initiative
Legislative Audit Commission sets Monday vote on NRI subpoena. The former head of the now-disbanded state agency put in charge of Gov. Pat Quinn’s discredited Neighborhood Recovery Initiative may be compelled to testify in front of a legislative panel next month.

A four-member subcommittee of the Legislative Audit Commission posted notice Tuesday that it intends to meet next Monday in Chicago to vote on whether to subpoena Barbara Shaw to appear before the commission.

Shaw was executive director of the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority, which helped create and oversaw Quinn’s $54.5 million anti-violence grant program that is now under state and federal investigation. The Chicago-Sun-Times has the story here.

State Government
IDOT chief’s stepdaughter got job, promotion at state agency. Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider said in April she knew nothing about potentially illegal patronage hiring at the state agency she runs.

Now, Schneider is refusing to discuss how her stepdaughter secured a job and promotion at the Illinois Department of Transportation — and whether the proper personnel procedures were followed. The Better Government Association’s Patrick McCraney reported this story in the Sun-Times.

Illinois continues to lag the nation in job growth. Illinois’ unemployment rate fell to 7.5 percent in May, its lowest level since November 2008. The state’s unemployment rate dropped from 7.9 percent in April.

Unfortunately, Illinois continues to lag the nation in job growth and wages. The national unemployment rate for May was 6.3 percent. Illinois lost 11,400 manufacturing jobs over the last year, a decrease of 2 percent. That drop continued in May, with a decrease of 1,600 jobs. Crain’s Chicago Business has more on Illinois’ weak job gains here.

Week in Review
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