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  • 14 Aug 2023 10:23 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    The attorney general will soon have greater oversight of healthcare transactions, specifically mergers and acquisitions that include healthcare facilities, under a law signed Friday by Gov. JB Pritzker. [Health News Illinois]

    The plan, effective next January, will require facilities to notify the attorney general within 30 days of a proposed merger or acquisition. It would also create a state program for premerger notification of healthcare facility mergers.

    The office can then determine whether a proposed transaction warrants an investigation and, when necessary, a challenge for anticompetitive conduct.

    Attorney General Kwame Raoul, who advocated for the proposal, has said that while his office works with the federal government to review large-scale transactions, a state-level review will fill gaps that allow mergers to occur without review.

    Pritzker also signed into law a plan that mandates healthcare workers to undergo one hour of cultural competency training as part of their licensure cycle. Professionals will need to complete statutorily mandated training every other year, rather than annually, and the law reduces mandated hours of training from three to one. The law will also require every professional to take Alzheimer’s training during their first renewal cycle.

    The Illinois Healthcare Cultural Competency Coalition praised the plan, saying it will give providers the “tools and information they need to effectively and affirmingly serve communities of color, people with disabilities, people of diverse faiths, undocumented individuals, LGBTQ+ people, people living with HIV, intersex people, and other communities that have been marginalized in the healthcare system.”

    Another new law signed Friday will implement recommendations made earlier this year in the children’s behavioral health blueprint. That includes the establishment of a centralized intake portal to provide families guidance and referrals to state and community-based programs for which they are eligible, the creation of a navigator assistance program and statutory language to pave the way for annual mental health screenings to all K-12 students.

    “The need for timely and appropriate care cannot be overstated — families and children need access to services now,” said sponsor Sen. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago. “Soon, parents and providers will be able to rely on this legislation as a roadmap to finally get children the care they need.”

    Other new laws will:

    ·    Allow licensed healthcare professionals — not just physicians — to make disability determinations for an employee receiving duty disability.

    ·    Require insurance or managed care plans to offer, for an additional premium, coverage for hearing instruments if prescribed by a hearing care professional.

    ·    Modify the timeline for which nursing program graduates can sit for an exam post-graduation without additional education and training. It also requires registered professional nursing schools to be evaluated for effectiveness over a three-year average.

    ·    Require insurance coverage for an annual mental health and prevention wellness visit with cost sharing.

    ·    Allow the Tinley Park–Park District to renovate the former Tinley Park Mental Health Center into a recreation site.

    ·    Create a task force to look at emergency medical technician training, recruitment and retention.

    ·    Ensure all preventive care mandates will remain in place.

    ·    Classify electronic health records and other information included in them, like demographic information, as “private information” and not subject to the Freedom of Information Act for HIPAA-covered private entities.

    ·    Create a task force to look at ways to make Illinois a “healing-centered or trauma-informed” state, including improved alignment of existing efforts and strategic planning for long-term transformation.


  • 11 Aug 2023 7:20 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Researchers said the increase in maternity deserts and poor access to care is in part due to obstetric  wards.  A whopping 5.6 million birthing people are finding themselves without access to maternity care as the prevalence of maternity deserts continues to grow, according to reports from the March of Dimes. 

    These care access issues are compounded by the social determinants of health that also impact maternal health outcomes, the report authors said.

    Illinois Report - download here.

    Summary of the USA  Report- click here.

    Report Shows 4% Drop in Birthing Hospitals with Nearly 6 Million Women Living in Areas with No or Limited Access to Care

    The March of Dimes report comes as the healthcare industry grapples with a fraught maternal health problem.

    Separate studies have found that the US has the worst maternal health outcomes and worst maternal health equity out of the developed world. On top of that, the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade has called into question overall access to all kinds of reproductive healthcare, not just abortion.

    Now, March of Dimes is outlining the state of birthing and maternity care access, particularly by shining a light on maternity care deserts.

    “A person’s ability to have a healthy pregnancy and healthy birth should not be dictated by where they live and their ability to access consistent, quality care but these reports shows that, today, these factors make it dangerous to be pregnant and give birth for millions of women in the United States,” Dr. Elizabeth Cherot, March of Dimes president and chief executive officer, stated publicly.



  • 10 Aug 2023 5:24 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Structural inequities and higher burden of social determinants of health are more than home-based care nurses can mitigate, researchers said.

    Even with home-based care interventions, social determinants of health and structural barriers get in the way of good maternal health outcomes, a new Health Affairs study has found.  [Patient Engagement HIT]

    The report, received under embargo, showed that a home-based nursing care program had a negligible impact on the health outcomes of pregnant, Medicaid-eligible people. That’s likely because structural barriers and other social determinants of health are likely more than nurses can mitigate.

    These findings call into question the efficacy of home-based nursing care among pregnant populations and how such programs can be reshaped in the future.

    The researchers zeroed in on the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) program, which offers home visits from a registered nurse to Medicaid-eligible pregnant people throughout their pregnancy and up to 24 months after delivery. NFP operates in 40 states and, as of 2020, has served more than 50,000 families. It also received additional funding as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

    As part of their home visits, NFP nurses use different patient-provider communication strategies to uncover targeted needs and to tailor healthcare and social services solutions. In addition, NFP nurses conduct mental health screenings, monitor pregnancy, and provide guidance on healthy behaviors related to exercise and nutrition.



  • 9 Aug 2023 9:30 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Medicaid Administrator Kelly Cunningham said last week they expect to have conversations in the coming months with federal partners regardingIllinois’ recently-submitted1115 waiver for behavioral health services.

    The five-year extension application to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services proposes 10 programs, including efforts to address food and nutrition services, employment assistance, non-medical transportation and community reintegration for previously incarcerated individuals.

    While they await those negotiations with the federal agency, Cunningham told the Medicaid Advisory Board Friday that the next big step for the agency will be creating an implementation design for the initiatives. She said the agency will be working with stakeholders to help plan how to roll out the programs.

    “It's really how do we design an implementation strategy so that these services and that this planning actually has the desired outcome in terms of improving health and addressing the needs of the Medicaid population," Cunningham said.

    CMS said earlier this summer that they have extended the state’s demonstration through next June as the two sides negotiate over the current extension application.

    The agency also said it is preparing to schedule a public hearing on changes to the Medicaid-like program for undocumented individuals ages 42 and older. The changes include a pause on new enrollees between the age of 42 and 64 and copays for hospital services not eligible for a federal match, such as $250 for inpatient hospitalizations and $100 for emergency room visits.

    The changes also will pause enrollment in the program for those 65 and older once the total number of members reaches 16,500. Officials said last week it has yet to meet that threshold.

    Laura Phelan, policy director at the department, said the details of the meeting “will be forthcoming.”

    Additionally, she said work is underway to create a dashboard to track enrollment data on the program.

    “Our goal is to make it consumer friendly and also easily consumable,” Phelan said.

     The committee also approved a motion for the department to respond by year’s end to a report created by the MAC’s community integration subcommittee. The report lays out short- and long-term recommendations to increase the number of seniors and persons with all types of disabilities receiving services in community settings.


  • 8 Aug 2023 12:57 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    When Denver Health wanted to open an inpatient opioid detox unit specifically for teens, doctors there searched high and low for a model to copy. They didn’t find one. [KFF Health News]

    Teens who land in emergency rooms with an opioid overdose generally receive naloxone to reverse the effects of dangerous drugs in their system and are sent home with a list of places they can go for follow-up care. But too often, those teens never seek additional help. They are left to suffer through the agony of withdrawal with no medications to ease their cravings. As a result, many, seeking relief, go back to opioids, often with tragic consequences.

    Christian Thurstone, the director of behavioral health services at the Denver hospital, said six of his teen patients have died of fentanyl overdoses in the past two years. Denver Health has now opened what he believes to be the nation’s first adolescent inpatient detox unit.



  • 7 Aug 2023 7:26 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    It’s estimated that at least 1 in 5 people with a SARS-CoV-2 infection never develop symptoms. Genetics might explain some of these asymptomatic cases, it turns out. In a new study appearing in Nature, people with a particular gene variant appeared to have preexisting T cell immunity to the virus, likely a holdover from previous bouts of the common cold. [JAMA Network]

    Why This Is Important

    Hollenbach and her coauthors note that many studies have looked at genetic factors in severe COVID-19 disease, but fewer have examined the underpinnings of asymptomatic or mild infection. Insight into factors that allow the immune system to quickly clear the virus could help scientists better understand the disease and improve immunotherapies and vaccines, they say.

    Benjamin Solomon, MD, who was not involved with the work, is clinical director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, part of the US National Institutes of Health. “It’s interesting to see a major study focus on people on the less-affected end of the curve, as this can be clinically important and offer useful biological insights, but may be less studied than the other end of the curve,” Solomon wrote in an email.



  • 4 Aug 2023 11:17 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    -the misinformation is about misinformation.

    Robert Califf, MD, the head of the FDA, doesn't seem to be having fun on the job.

    "I would describe this year as hand-to-hand combat. Really, every day," he said at an academic conference at Stanford in April. It's a sentiment the FDA commissioner has expressed often. [MedPage Today]

    What's been getting Califf's goat? Misinformation, which gets part of the blame for Americans' stagnating life expectancy. To Califf, the country that invents many of the most advanced drugs and devices is terrible at using those technologies well. And one reason for that is Americans' misinformed choices, he has suggested. Many don't use statins, vaccines, or COVID-19 therapies. Many choose to smoke cigarettes and eat the wrong food.


  • 3 Aug 2023 7:18 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    ...Findings  In 2018, the estimated economic burden of racial and ethnic health inequities was $421 billion (using MEPS) or $451 billion (using BRFSS data) and the estimated burden of education-related health inequities was $940 billion (using MEPS) or $978 billion (using BRFSS). Most of the economic burden was attributable to the poor health of the Black population; however, the burden attributable to American Indian or Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander populations was disproportionately greater than their share of the population. Most of the education-related economic burden was incurred by adults with a high school diploma or General Educational Development equivalency credential. However, adults with less than a high school diploma accounted for a disproportionate share of the burden. Although they make up only 9% of the population, they bore 26% of the costs.


  • 2 Aug 2023 4:14 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    In a round of interviews before he stepped down as director of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) in December 2021, Francis Collins, MD, PhD, frequently discussed the problem of misinformation, which, many argue, became more rampant during the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks in large part to social media. [JAMA Network]

    Some have used the term “infodemic” to describe the glut of COVID-19 information—much of it false or misleading—on social media. During a disease outbreak, an infodemic “causes confusion and risk-taking behaviors that can harm health” and “leads to mistrust in health authorities and undermines the public health response,” according to the World Health Organization.

    When asked about the NIH’s role in pushing back against misinformation, Collins told Nature, “I wish we had more insights from behavioral social science research into how this has come to pass, and why it could have gotten so completely widespread.”

    At the end of Collins’ tenure as NIH director, the agency planted the seed of a new program to support that very kind of research.



  • 1 Aug 2023 1:19 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker joined health leaders Monday to unveil several steps to increase access to reproductive care.

    That includes a new hospital navigation program, set to debut this month, designed to give appropriate and expeditious treatment to patients who need a higher level of care than can be provided at a clinic. [Health News Illinois]

    The hotline, to be staffed by nurse navigators, will help patients schedule appointments, acquire pre-operative testing and arrange payment, transportation and childcare for treatment.

    The initiative will be a partnership between the Chicago Abortion Fund, the University of Illinois Chicago, Rush University System for Health and the departments of Public Health and Healthcare and Family Services. 

    Pritzker said at an event at the University of Illinois Chicago that the plan will help reduce disparities for hospital-based abortion care, speed up medically urgent referrals and alleviate the strain on abortion clinics.

    “In the Land of Lincoln, we've doubled down on our commitment to maintain and expand reproductive health access for patients and protect providers," he said.

    Other initiatives announced Monday include:

    ·    The opening of requests for proposals to support a public-facing hotline for abortion service navigation throughout Illinois. The hotline is funded through $10 million allocated to IDPH in the current budget.

    ·    The creation of a Medicaid family planning program for people otherwise not eligible for Medicaid due to income. Covered services will include annual preventive exams, family planning counseling and all Food and Drug Administration-approved methods of contraception.

    ·    A new $5 million capital investment program to support reproductive healthcare providers in Illinois that are experiencing increased demand for their services for improvements and repairs to new or existing facilities.

    ·    Authorization for Illinois to cover transportation and lodging for state employees who must travel to access reproductive healthcare. 

    Some of the initiatives will be supported by the $18 million allocated to IDPH in the current budget to support efforts to expand access to such services. The family planning program will be paid for with a mix of federal Medicaid and Title X funding.

    “I feel so fortunate that IDPH is committed and dedicated to working across the administration and with our provider community to ensure that those seeking family planning and abortion services in Illinois get access to the reproductive care they need,” said department Director Dr. Sameer Vohra.

    Chicago Abortion Fund Executive Director Megan Jeyifo said they have helped over 250 individuals that required hospital care in the year since the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to an abortion, a 26 percent increase from the prior year. 

    An already stressful situation of receiving an abortion is made worse by individuals having to travel out of state to a place where they may not know anyone or know where services are available, she said. The hotline will help alleviate some of those challenges.

     “(The initiative) will strengthen the working relationships we have with four major hospitals in the Chicagoland area to make sure our callers and all people who require hospital-based care can access appointments as soon as possible,” Jeyifo said. “And most importantly, it will strengthen Illinois’ ability to do what we have already been doing in this landscape: stepping up as a national access point for hospital-based care.”


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