Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 12, 2011

State Panel Approves Provena-Resurrection Merger

The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board has signed off on creating Illinois' largest Catholic hospital system.

At its meeting Wednesday in Bolingbrook, the state regulatory panel unanimously agreed to the merger between Mokena-based Provena Health and Chicago-based Resurrection Health Care.

The combined system would provide more than 100 sites, including Provena's two hospitals in Urbana and Danville, 28 long-term care and senior residential centers, and more than 50 clinics.

Sandra Bruce, the president and CEO of the new organization, said it is grateful for the board's unanimous approval.

"We enthusiastically now turn our full attention to creating a strong Catholic health ministry driven by Mission, and focused entirely on collaborating with our physicians, staff, and our communities to deliver patient, resident and family-centered care that is high in quality and value," Bruce said in a press release.

When the merger was announced in July, Resurrection spoksman Brian Crawford said he expected a cost savings to be incurred by closing down information systems and a corporate office for one of the hospital systems. At a state hearing in Urbana in August, there was little opposition to the move.

It's expected to be finalized Nov. 1.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 12, 2011

Migrant Housing, Labor Issues Focus of Legislative Hearing

The Illinois state senate's Agriculture and Conservation Committee met this week in Springfield to discuss housing and labor issues facing migrant workers.

An example brought up during the hearing was the case of the Cherry Orchard Village apartments in Champaign County. The property's managers were found guilty this year of failing to legally connect and repair the property's sewage systems, and they were ordered to vacate the apartments.

Champaign-Urbana Public Health Administrator Julie Pryde testified at the hearing. Pryde said part of the problem in cases like this stems from companies that underpay migrant workers.

"Migrant workers are coming here from other countries to make a lot of money, take it back for their families to live on. Not the case," Pryde said. "What's happening is that entire families are moving here. They're exploited the entire time they're here, and they usually don't even have enough money to make it back where they came from."

Democratic State Senator Mike Frerichs of Champaign chaired the committee hearing. Frerichs said legislation will be introduced next year to address housing problems facing migrant workers.

"You don't want to paint with a broad brush and say that everyone is responsible for this," Frerichs said. "But I think something needs to happen in order to insure that people aren't living in such filthy conditions with raw sewage and really unlivable living conditions."

Members of the Senate Agriculture Committee also heard testimony from Executive Director of the Illinois Migrant Council Eloy Salazar, Supervisory Attorney of the Illinois Migrant Legal Assistance Project Miguel Keberlein Gutierrez, Policy Analyst for the Latino Policy Forum Juliana Gonzalez-Crussi, and Policy Director for Housing Action Illinois Bob Palmer.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 06, 2011

Sen. Cultra Wants to Require Drug Testing for Medicaid Recipients

State Senator Shane Cultra has come up with one way to try and reign in Medicaid costs.

Legislation sponsored by the Onarga Republican would require drug testing for those on public aid. It would require an initial test when applying for Medicaid, and subsequent random tests for current recipients. Cultra says the measure serves a dual purpose in that it targets those who need help, who will cost the state more if they aren't treated.

"There's going to be a cost savings just in identifiying those that are on drugs," he said. "Usually, there are family situations there. It's better for the family, it's better for everyone involved."

Cultra says he's confident the measure will get co-sponsors, but is skeptical the measure will find its way through the legislature in the approaching fall veto session. He says Democrats haven't looked kindly on similar measures.

The Senator notes federal regulators have objected to bi-partisan Medicaid reforms that were passed in January. One of them would have required applicants to produce more than one pay stub to prove income eligibility. But Cultra says any other method that Illinois attempts is considered a 'new' and forbidden eligibility restriction.

'I don't understand why they would do that, but even if we got this passed, maybe the federal government would do the same thing, we don't know," he said. "But I think it's a start."

Cultra says reforming Medicaid and other entitlement programs has to start somewhere. He says savings from the bill could 'astronomical' if it properly identified those who get their lives turned around.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 03, 2011

Tuluremia Found in Five Cats in Champaign County

Five cats in Champaign County have been diagnosed with tularemia, also known as rabbit fever, and other names. It's a bacterial disease that can spread to humans.

Epidemiologist Avais Vaid of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District said cats catch tularemia from ticks they encounter while hunting rabbits and other small rodents. Four of the five cats with the disease have either died or been euthanized.

A spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Public Health says cases of tularemia haven't been seen in the state in years. Vaid said he's concerned that the disease has shown up in cats in Cahampaign County, and he worries the disease may be spreading.

"Initially, the three cats were in the Savoy area, which were very close to the wildlife area over there," Vaid explained. "But then the other ones that we found, one was in Champaign and (one was) in Urbana. So that really raises the concern that it is possible that it is spreading to other parts of the county."

Cats with tularemia may develop a high fever, mouth ulcers and depression, among other symptoms. They can spread the disease to humans through bites and scratches, sneezing or saliva. Human symptoms include sudden fever, chills, heat and muscle aches and diarrhea. The disease is fatal to humans in rare cases, especially if not treated.

Vaid said the best way to protect cats from tularemia is not to let them hunt outdoors, and make sure they're protected from tick bites. He says freezing weather should curb the threat of the tick that spreads tularemia.

Categories: Health
Tags: health

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 30, 2011

State Releases List of Non-Compliant Public Pools

The state of Illinois has released the list of non-compliant public pools that will be shut down tomorrow because of a drainage issue.

Illinois' Department of Public Health announced this week that new drain covers are needed so swimmers won't get trapped.

In Champaign County, that list includes one municipal pool and three motels. Rantoul's Hap Parker Family Aquatic Center, which is closed for the season, is on the list.

One of the motels listed, the Historic Lincoln in Urbana, has been closed since 2009 and undergoing massive renovations under a new developer. The county's list also includes Champaign's Country Fair Apartments and Lake of the Woods Apartments in Mahomet.

Four swim clubs in Macon County could be impacted. The Decatur Surf Club, Sun and Fun Swim Club, and Holiday Park Swim Club, and Mt. Zion Swim Club are part of the list, as is the Decatur Family YMCA. But the Y's Exective Director says that listing was error on the state's part.

The operator of the one community pool in Paris on the state list says he's aware of the drainage issue, and the pool closed two years ago. Will Welsh, Executive Director of the Paris Community YMCA, said the Y hopes to collect the $3,500 dollars necessary to fix the pool and reopen it by next summer.

The Paxton Park District Pool is also listed, and closed for the year. On its web site, a message from the district says the community is doing all it can to reopen sometime in 2012.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 29, 2011

Christie Clinic Says It Won’t Talk With PersonalCare

The parent company of health insurance provider PersonalCare says it's continuing negotiations with Christie Clinic, but the Champaign-based medical clinic says it's not interested.

Christie Clinic first announced on Tuesday that PersonalCare had terminated its contract with the clinic, and that patients should switch to other providers in the next enrollment period (Oct. 10 - 28, 2011).

But in a statement posted Wednesday on the University of Illinois HR homepage, PersonalCare said it was still negotiating with Christie Clinic --- at least regarding its Open Access Plan for state employees and retirees.

"Although our agreement is scheduled to terminate on January 1, 2012, it is PersonalCare's strong desire to continue our long-standing partnership with Christie Clinic and that Christie Clinic remain an in-network provider for years to come", the statement said.

The News-Gazette reported that according to a spokesperson for PersonalCare's parent company, Coventry Health Care, the contract termination was a procedural move needed to renegotiate a new contract.

But a statement issued today on the Christie Clinic website that since their contract with PersonalCare had been renewed in the past by simply amending the old agreement, there was "no requirement to terminate the existing agreement in order to renegotiate specific terms".

"Because the Christie Clinic team is committed to providing the highest quality health care to the communities we serve, we are working closely with our patients, the state of Illinois and private employers to make this transition as seamless as possible for Christie Clinic patients," Christie Clinic said in an earlier statement. "We will be working directly with employers and their brokers who currently contract with PersonalCare about their options."

People in Champaign County who want to have uninterrupted access to Christie Clinic physicians are being urged to switch to Health Alliance HMO coverage or Health Link's Open Access Plans in the next enrollment period.

The University of Illinois said it is reviewing what the contract termination means for U of I employees and their dependents who are enrolled in the PersonalCare health plans, and if any decisions need to be made during the upcoming Special Healthcare Enrollment Period.

Categories: Health

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 28, 2011

Questions Loom Over PersonalCare Contract Termination

The news Tuesday that PersonalCare is terminating its contract with Christie Clinic leaves some unanswered questions for people who rely on PersonalCare for service.

Claudia Lennhoff heads the group, Champaign County Health Consumers. Lennhoff said her organization just renewed its employer group plan with PersonalCare.

"I don't know what kind of coverage PersonalCare will actually be offering us, so that we can access physician services," Lennhoff said. "So, It's a very distressing situation, and certainly if we had known that this was something that might happen, I really probably would not have renewed with PersonalCare.

In a statement, Christie Clinic said it will work with employers and their brokers who contract with PersonalCare to discuss their options.

Meanwhile, the University of Illinois said it is reviewing what the contract termination means for U of I employees and their dependents who are enrolled in the PersonalCare health plans, and if any decisions need to be made during the upcoming Special Healthcare Enrollment Period.

A request for comment from PersonalCare was not returned.

Categories: Education, Health

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 28, 2011

Brain Scan Could Study Alzheimer’s Disease

MRI brain scans are commonly used to detect brain tumors or concussions in athletes. Now a similar scan is being tested to study Alzheimer's Disease.

An MRI shows the structure of the brain -- what it looks like. Whereas an fMRI is used to show how the brain functions. It can tell which areas of the brain are more active when you are at ease.

Researchers think the fMRI can be used to detect changes in this resting state which can indicate brain disorders such as depression, autism, and Alzheimer's.

"Before I have the symptoms, I could have an fMRI test," said Dr. Tom Ala, interim director for the Center for Alzheimer's Disease at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. "The fMRI test could say 'you are cool no problem', I'm not as worried. If the fMri test says the arrow is pointing in that direction because of this test, this biomarker, I could start treatment."

Patients cannot use this technology for Alzheimer's yet because it is still in the testing phase.

(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Categories: Health, Science, Technology

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 27, 2011

PersonalCare Terminates Contract with Christie Clinic

PersonalCare is terminating its contract with Christie Clinic, effective January 1st.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the clinic announced the health insurance contractor's plans.

The end of the contract will impact state workers and retirees, and those connected to other PersonalCare plans.

People in Champaign County who want to have uninterrupted access to Christie Clinic physicians are being urged to switch to Health Alliance HMO coverage or Health Link's Open Access Plans in the next enrollment period.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 27, 2011

Food Insecurity Focus at Hunger Symposium

At the 5th annual Hunger Symposium on Sept. 26, 2011 in Champaign, food insecurity took front stage.

People talking at the Hunger Symposium

Two million people in Illinois deal with food insecurity, and in eastern Illinois that number is about 80,000, according to a study released by the group, Feeding America. It's a problem that's being addressed through programs like the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Local food pantries are also working hard to feed people who need food assistance. At the 5th annual Hunger Symposium on Sept. 26, 2011 in Champaign, food insecurity took front stage. The event was put on by the Eastern Illinois Food Bank and the Family Resiliency Center. Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert talks with Sean Powers, who attended the meeting.

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