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  • 30 May 2024 8:44 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    The Illinois General Assembly has passed a pair of health insurance reform bills, which Gov. JB Pritzker has indicated he will sign. [Beckers Payers Issues]

    On May 25, the Illinois House passed legislation that will ban prior authorization for admission for inpatient psychiatric services, beginning in 2026. Payers will also be required to publish all services that require prior authorization on their website, and face stricter requirements to maintain an accurate provider network directory. 

    The Illinois Department of Insurance will also gain the authority to approve or deny premium rate changes for large group policies, and the legislation bans step therapy requirements under all utilization review programs, including prescription drug plans.

    Another passed bill will ban the sale of short-term individual health plans in the state, often called "junk plans." 

    The legislation applies only to state-regulated health plans, such as fully funded employer group policies, state employee plans, and the state's Medicaid program.


  • 29 May 2024 7:39 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    The General Assembly approved several major healthcare initiatives over the holiday weekend, including expanding coverage for maternal health services. [Health News Illinois] 

    The plan by Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston, would task insurers with covering all pregnancy, postpartum and newborn care provided by perinatal doulas or licensed certified professional midwives. That includes home births and home visits.

    Coverage would also expand to home visits by board-certified lactation consultants, as well as recommended products like breast pumps and feeding aids.

    The bill would allow policy limits to cover up to $8,000 for home visits by a perinatal doula.

    "What's so heartening to me is to see a governor who understands that a safe healthy pregnancy shouldn't be predicated on one's income, background or race," Gabel said. "It is a fundamental right."

    An amendment filed Friday would require Medicaid to cover certified professional midwife services, as well as licensed certified professional midwife services, starting next year.

    The proposal passed along party lines. Some Republicans were concerned about why abortion services were not tied to copays, but those who have a miscarriage or a successful delivery could be required to have a copay.

    Pritzker, who made maternal health a major priority this session, said Saturday he will sign the bill into law.

    “(This initiative) will work to close the tragic gap in maternal mortality between Black women and other new parents, and (will ensure) we meet the unique pregnancy, birthing and postpartum needs of women across our state,” he said.

    Lawmakers also approved a plan from Sen. Laura Fine, D-Glenview, that would expand the state’s anti-discrimination protections to include those who receive abortion and reproductive healthcare. Under the bill, for example, employers wouldn't be able to end employment for someone seeking in vitro fertilization and housing providers couldn't refuse an apartment rental because a person had an abortion.

    And lawmakers approved a bill from Celina Villanueva, D-Chicago, that would ensure patients can receive abortion services in a medical emergency. Supporters said it is a vital step as the U.S. Supreme Court is considering a challenge to a federal law that ensures that patients can receive emergency care.

    Another approved bill from Rep. Camille Lilly, D-Chicago, would require the Department of Public Health to conduct a study examining what demographics are underrepresented in clinical cancer trials.

    All proposals head to Pritzker for final approval.

    The Senate on Sunday passed a proposal to create a program to provide medical debt relief for up to 300,000 Illinoisans, another of Pritzker’s legislative initiatives.

    Qualifying individuals would have to have a household income below 400 percent of the federal poverty level or possess medical debt amounting to at least 5 percent of their household income.

    The Department of Healthcare and Family Services would be tasked with reviewing and choosing applicants to receive support. An annual report would be released on the program's progress and outcomes.

    Sen. Mike Simmons, a Democrat from Chicago and chief sponsor, said the plan would remove an additional barricade that some individuals have to healthcare.

    “Too often people ignore their health due to cost — especially those with fixed incomes and tight budgets,” he said. “We have to look out for them and make sure that a bill is never a barrier to healthcare.”

    The chamber also passed a plan from Sen. Karina Villa, D-Chicago, that would require hospital affiliates to report suspected abuse of a patient at hospitals and facilities operated by an affiliate, such as doctor’s offices or clinics. Affiliates would also be subject to the same reporting guidelines as hospitals, with the Department of Public Health able to investigate reports of abuse.

    Lawmakers also approved a cannabis omnibus from Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, that would, in part, allow medical cannabis patients to get their prescriptions through telehealth. They removed language from the bill allowing patients to purchase medical cannabis from any dispensary in the state.

    The three bills passed by the Senate Sunday head to the House for concurrence.


  • 28 May 2024 10:05 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    CDC (5.17.2024) released consolidated, evidence-based guidance for preventing the spread of infections in K-12 schools. The guidance includes everyday actions that schools can take to prevent and control the spread of respiratory and stomach viruses, such as influenza and norovirus, and bacterial illness, such as strep throat. This guidance is designed to maximize school attendance and its benefits for all students, while also preventing the spread of infectious diseases. Being in school provides many benefits, including ongoing learning and social and emotional development. [CDC]

    “CDC has updated actions schools can take to prevent germs from spreading and keep kids healthy and learning,” said CDC Director Mandy Cohen, M.D., M.P.H. “This update puts lessons learned into actionable steps schools can follow to keep our kids, teachers, and school staff safe.”

    This guidance is being released for consideration for the 2024 – 2025 school year. As school administrators are closing out the current school year and planning for the new school year in the fall, CDC is providing the guidance now to ensure it can be part of those back-to-school preparations.

    The strategies found in the new guidance are based on research and expertise CDC gained from decades of working to prevent disease transmission in school settings. They include:

    • Teach and reinforce proper hand washing and respiratory etiquette.
    • Take steps for cleaner air by improving ventilation in schools. Schools should consider ventilation enhancements and design when undergoing remodeling or when undertaking new building construction to optimize clean air.
    • Clean, sanitize, and disinfect, when appropriate.
    • Promote vaccinations for students and staff.



  • 24 May 2024 7:35 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    This event focused on frequently asked questions about maternal mental health with experts and women with lived experience. Panelists discussed the various signs and symptoms of PPD, the disparities that exist in maternal mental health care for underserved and underrepresented communities, the importance of support from loved ones, and resources to help women and families who may be looking for support. Video available here.

    Presenters included:

    -Andrea Clark Horton, J.D., M.Div. – Director, Perinatal Mental Health Alliance for People of Color, Postpartum Support International •

    -Dr. Emily Miller – Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Division Director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and Women & Infants Hospital

    - Allison Livingston – Mother with Lived Experience; Co-facilitator, Perinatal OCD Group for Parents, Postpartum Support International

    - Dr. Laura J. Miller – Medical Director of Reproductive Mental Health in the Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention at the Veterans Health Administration; Professor of Psychiatry at the Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine

    -Dr. Dana Delman Meaney (Moderator) – Medical Officer, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    Call or text the National Maternal Mental Health Hotline at 1-833-TLC-MAMA (1-833-852-6262) for 24/7 free access to professional counselors for women and families seeking support.



  • 23 May 2024 10:13 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    The Senate is poised to consider legislation that would expand coverage for pregnancy, postpartum and newborn care provided by doulas and midwives. [Health News Illinois]

    The bill from Sen. Lakesia Collins, D-Chicago, would task insurers with covering all pregnancy, postpartum and newborn care provided by perinatal doulas or licensed certified professional midwives. That includes home births and home visits.

    Coverage would also expand to home visits by board-certified lactation consultants, as well as recommended products like breast pumps and feeding aids.

    The bill would allow policy limits to cover up to $8,000 for home visits by a perinatal doula.

    Collins said the plan aims to address barriers to maternal care, especially for Black women who face higher maternal mortality rates.

    “Black women face some of the highest mortality rates during and after pregnancy, and with this legislation, we will begin to close gaps in coverage and increase safety and care for all newborns and mothers in Illinois,” she said.

    The bill unanimously passed the Senate’s executive committee and awaits consideration in the full chamber.


  • 22 May 2024 10:18 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Consumers turned to telehealth in droves to access medical care during the coronavirus pandemic. Though current utilization remains higher than pre-pandemic levels, that wave of demand has subsided, leaving some to wonder how digitally delivered care will weave itself into the American healthcare system in the long term. [Healthcare Dive]

    Experts say telehealth has carved out niches where it could become the front door to medical services — like in mental health, where utilization remains elevated above other use cases, or low-acuity urgent care, at a time when many Americans don’t have access to a primary care physician. 

    Perhaps the biggest question mark hanging over the industry is whether Washington will make COVID-19-era telehealth flexibilities permanent. The move enjoys bipartisan congressional support and is backed by proposed legislation. In addition, federal regulators have moved to continue allowing providers to prescribe certain medications via telemedicine.

    Even absent concrete action on the Hill, hospitals, payers and other healthcare companies are continuing to integrate virtual solutions into their operations. This includes tech giants like Amazon and Microsoft, which are angling to see how their consumer reach and artificial intelligence capabilities can augment telehealth access and delivery.



  • 21 May 2024 6:30 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    In a recent tweetopens in a new tab or window that resonated with many, I shared my startling encounter with an unexpected medical bill of nearly $5,000 (originally $10,000). The incident shed light on a widespread issue that countless Americans face when grappling with the labyrinthine and often bewildering U.S. healthcare system. [MedPage Today]

    My Run-In With the Emergency Department

    While attending a conference in Arizona in January, I embarked on a popular hike up the renowned Camelback Mountain. Unfortunately, mirroring the experiences of many who preceded me, I underestimated the effects of the dry desert air and mid-day temperature. I consequently found myself dizzy and dehydrated, necessitating an emergency department visit. During my visit, I received three bags of IV fluids, two rounds of blood tests, and one X-ray -- and 6 weeks later, an array of medical charges approaching $10,000. Despite my insurance company negotiating it down to $4,800, the onus of the entire amount still fell on me due to my high-deductible health plan (HDHP). 



  • 20 May 2024 5:51 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    The city of Chicago’s “prompt and coordinated response” to the measles outbreak earlier this year at a migrant shelter helped reduce the potential spread of the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week.  [Health News Illinois]

    The agency said in its report that the outbreak at the Pilsen neighborhood shelter could have “spread rapidly among approximately 2,100 presumed exposed shelter residents” after the first case was identified on March 7.

    The Chicago Department of Public Health, in partnership with the CDC, Cook County Health and other local healthcare providers, launched a response on March 8, which included a mass vaccination campaign.

    CDPH said more than 9,300 doses of measles, mumps, rubella vaccine were administered at new arrivals shelters during that effort, with another 17,000 vaccines administered to Chicagoans.

    The CDC's model suggested that at least 100 people would have been infected with measles had it not been for the campaign.

    “This outbreak underscores the need to ensure high vaccination coverage among communities residing in congregate settings,” the CDC report noted.

    Other CDPH efforts included screening shelter residents for measles symptoms and isolating individuals with suspected or confirmed cases. 

    The agency said Friday that 57 cases have been confirmed at the shelter, with the most recent case occurring on April 5. The last case in Chicago was on April 16.

    “This is a good example of what can be accomplished when federal, state, county and city agencies come together with community partners in a rapid and coordinated fashion to address an active outbreak,” Dr. Stephanie Black, medical director of CDPH’s disease control bureau, said in a statement.


  • 17 May 2024 7:07 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Behavioral health advocates joined Gov. JB Pritzker in Springfield on Wednesday to discuss ongoing efforts to transform services in the state. [ Health News Illinois]

    Those developments include an online portal set to launch this summer to connect families to publicly funded mental health services. Work is also being done on a “Mental Health Bill of Rights” to establish goals so all Illinoisans can access care.

    “Our goal has always been to make Illinois the best state in the nation to raise a family,” Pritzker said after the event. “That’s why my administration is working to improve our statewide mental and behavioral health infrastructure for people of all ages."

    The Children’s Behavioral Health Transformation Initiative, launched in 2022 to improve access to mental health services for kids, convened the roundtable.

    Initiative Director Dr. Dana Weiner said they continue to look to remove roadblocks so families have the “tools to find the help they need.”

    Officials also noted success with a state program that provides trained peer support to individuals recovering from mental health and substance use disorders. 


  • 16 May 2024 6:12 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    The Chicago Department of Public Health on Wednesday unveiled a strategy to combat opioid overdoses this summer. [Health News Illinois]

    Commissioner Dr. Olusimbo "Simbo" Ige told the City Council Committee on Health and Human Relations that efforts will focus on working with local organizations and providers to distribute overdose reversal medication and to connect those suffering from opioid use disorder with same-day access to medication treatment.

    The agency will also offer education on overdose prevention and review data and maps of opioid-related overdoses based on responses by emergency medical services providers.

    “We have tools to help prevent fatal overdoses,” Ige said. “With greater awareness and understanding of the increase in opioid overdose deaths, as well as ready access to overdose reversal and treatment medications, everybody can play a role."

    The effort will focus on neighborhoods at the highest risk of opioid-related overdoses. Ige said that, for the past three years, one third of all EMS responses have occurred in five west side neighborhoods.

    Ige said the effort is a step to address a spike in overdoses seen in recent summers and a life-expectancy gap between Black and non-Black Chicagoans, which was 11.4 years in 2022.

    “CDPH and the city of Chicago are committed to narrowing this gap, and we’re working every day with our healthcare and community partners to do so,” she said.


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