Illinois Public Media News
The new state budget eliminates funding for the Illinois Cares Rx program, which helped pay prescription drug costs for low-income Illinoisans. Some of those beneficiaries can find help from other programs. Now, two Champaign-Urbana lawmakers hope to pass a bill to help seniors with no other options.
Before it was cut as part of Medicaid reform, Illinois Cares Rx helped more than 180,000 people with disabilities. The proposed Seniors Pharmaceutical Assistance Relief program would help an estimated 80,000 seniors only. But sponsors Mike Frerichs (D-Champaign) in the state Senate and Naomi Jakobsson (D-Urbana) in the House say the measure would save money in the long run.
'Prescription drugs are part of modern health care," Frerichs said. "If a doctor says this is part of your treatment to regain your health, to retain your health, and someone goes home and says I can't afford them, and doesn't take them, it's going to cause other problems, and those will come back to us in the Medicaid system."
But Jakobsson admits finding the money in recently signed budget will be a challenge.
"I think we're just going to have to look at the rest of the budget, and as some things were vetoed out of the budget, maybe there might be some money to cover this," Jakobsson said.
Jakobsson and Frerichs hope to see their measure voted on during the fall veto session. Meanwhile, they are talking to lawmakers and legislative leaders to build support for their proposals.
Frerichs and Jakobsoon introduced the proposal in both chambers (as Senate Bill 3923 and House Bill 6178) during the last week of the spring legislative session. Decatur Republican Adam Brown is co-sponsoring the House measure.
The Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act's health insurance requirement for most Americans, as well as other elements of the health care overhaul. The High Court ruled in a 5-4 vote that the health insurance requirement for most Americans in the Affordable Care Act was not, in fact, a mandate, but a tax.
Champaign County Restaurants Fail Inspections
(Reported by Pam G. Dempsey of CU-CitizenAccess)
Public health officials continue to give failing scores to restaurants in Champaign County each month, but after more than three years of study they still have not decided how to make those inspections routinely public.
Clinic, Small Business Group, Respond to ACA Ruling
A spokesman for a Champaign clinic helping those with little to no insurance sees Thursday's ruling on the Affordable Care Act as a positive, helping 30-to-50 million people across the country.
But Ben Mueller says Avicenna Community Health Center will still likely see dozens of patients who are undocumented immigrants.
Mueller serves as director of outreach and partnerships for the facility managed by the Central Illinois Mosque. He expects free clinics and hospital emergency rooms to stay in demand until more federal efforts to help immigrants are in place.
Mueller notes President Barack Obama is developing ways to address that, citing the recent order that young people from overseas without criminal records would be exempt from deportation.
"We're in a political year, and the election could bring a whole set of policies," he said. "It's conceivable in the future that legislation such as the Dream Act would provide a path to citizenship. And there's other implications for immigration reform that may provide some relief for persons who do not have health insurance that are currently covered under the Affordable Care Act."
Mueller says there's a lot hinging on policies tied to the Affordable Care Act. He says Medicaid rolls in Champaign County alone have grown from nearly 24-thousand in 2006, to 33-thousand last year.
Governor Pat Quinn says he expects to expand the Medicaid rolls with the high court's ruling, relying on federal assistance.
The Supreme Court's decision also brings to question how it will impact small businesses.
Steven Banke with the Chicago-based Small Business Advocacy Council favors health care co-ops over the exchanges that most states, Including Illinois, have yet to organize.
Benke, who chairs that group's health care committee, says that idea would bring much-needed competition to the market.
He says the difference between the two is a little complicated. Banke compares a health care exchange to the foundation of a building, while a co-op and its insurance companies, are the tenants.
"It's a type of risk-bearing entity or insurance company if you will," he said. "And it will operate on the exchange alongside of all the carriers. So we will be one of those carriers, if you will, that will show up on the exchange, and people will see us right next to Blue Cross, Aetna, United Health Care, and so forth."
Banke says one of the biggest challenges for him to provide coverage to a small office is that no one program size fits all.
He's hoping the exchange or co-op will allow them to get whatever type of health care they need.
For most people, the name Roger Ebert stands out as a man who’s known for giving movies a thumbs up or down. And it’s widely known he hails from Urbana. But to those who haven’t read the famed critic’s memoir, there’s a backstory to a man who didn’t set out to write about film.
Tuesday kicks off the annual "Bike to Work Day" in Champaign-Urbana. If you don’t own a bicycle or if you have a bike that’s gathering dust, then this might be the right day to release the kickstand and take off. As part of our series on efforts in the region to increase health and wellness, Illinois Public Media’s Sean Powers recently ended a long-time hiatus from bike riding to share the stories of people in the community who are passionate about cycling.
(Funded in part by a grant from the Lumpkin Family Foundation)
Researchers in Chicago are launching a study to find out whether weight loss can help African-American breast cancer survivors.
The University of Illinois at Chicago study is funded by a five-year, $3 million grant from the National Cancer Institute.
Melinda Stolley is leading the research. She says poor diet, lack of physical activity and obesity contribute to breast cancer progression.
The randomized study will recruit 240 breast cancer survivors who finished their treatment at least six months ago. Study participants need to be overweight, able to participate in moderate physical activity and not currently in a structured weight-loss program.
UIC will coordinate with the Chicago Park District to carry out the study in the Roseland-Pullman, Englewood, Austin, South Shore and Lawndale neighborhoods of Chicago.
If Illinois lawmakers approve Gov. Pat Quinn's proposal to reduce Medicaid services to close a $2.7 billion hole, then dental care in the state would also take a hit.
Quinn's Medicaid plan includes eliminating the adult dental care program to save $51.4 million annually. There are about 172,000 adults receiving Medicaid-funded dental services each year in Illinois.
Dionne Haney with the Illinois State Dental Society said cutting dental care under the Medicaid program would be a mistake, leaving many people with dental emergencies turning to hospital emergency rooms for care.
"At that point, those physicians on staff are not able to actually treat the condition, but would potentially prescribing medications for the pain and the infection that that potential dental emergency is taking, and not looking at the long-term effects of the patients care," Haney said.
According to the Illinois State Dental Society, the state ranks 48th in the country for its Medicaid funding rates. Haney worries Illinois' ranking could worsen if the cuts go through.
"Any further cuts would drive dentists having trouble making ends meet to see these patients because the reimbursement rate is so slow," she said. "It may have some dentists opting out of the program."
Nancy Greenwalt is the executive director of Smile Healthy, a nonprofit group in Champaign that provides dental care to underserved families. Smile Healthy coordinates the Frances Nelson Dental Center, which provides care to Medicaid patients.
Since opening in November, Greenwalt said the Frances Nelson Dental Center has had about 1,200 patients, about half of which are on Medicaid. Greenwalt said cutting the adult dental care program would be a mistake.
"There's just thousands and thousands of people out there who need dental care," she said. "You know, low-income, uninsured adults, adults on Medicaid who don't know where to go. We need access to more care."
Gov. Quinn has said that the cuts are needed to help prevent the entire Medicaid system from collapsing. He has also said if something isn't done to rein in Medicaid spending, then those costs will squeeze spending in other areas, like education and public safety.
The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago has released a photo of Sen. Mark Kirk that is the first public image of the Illinois Republican since his January stroke.
The photo shows Kirk with closely trimmed hair, looking alert and sitting up as he rests his right arm on a table.
The director of the institute's Center for Stroke Rehabilitation, Dr. Richard Harvey, also gave an update Tuesday on Kirk's progress with recovery.
Harvey says the senator has walked more than 10 miles in total since he arrived at the center in February. He's also able to climb stairs and get in and out of vehicles.
Doctors have said the 52-year-old Kirk should make a full mental recovery, although they expect the stroke will limit movement on his left side.
(Photo courtesy of The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago)
Four years after the closing of Urbana's Crystal Lake Pool, workers are preparing to demolish it to make way for its replacement.
The Urbana Park District's Tim Bartlett said demolition of the pool and related buildings will begin as soon as site preparation is completed. He added that he hopes that construction of the new Crystal Lake aquatic center can follow this summer, on the heels of the demolition. Bartlett said the construction plans have been sent to the Illinois Department of Public Health, and they are waiting for the agency's approval.
"They'll do a thorough review of what's being proposed," Bartlett said. "It's not uncommon for a number of a number of things to get listed or questioned. Those will get kicked back to the park district and our architects. And then we'll refine and revise as we need to."
The old Crystal Lake pool closed in 2008, and Urbana voters approved a property tax increase in 2010 to help pay for its replacement. The new aquatic center will cost an estimated $6.1 million. But Bartlett said it could cost more --- and include more features --- if a $400,000 state grant is approved.
In addition, the Urbana Park District is accepting private donations that could pay for other additions to the project.
But even without the grant and the donations, Bartlett said the new pool complex will be built.
"But the donations will allow us to add a few extra things, and make it extra special," he said.
The new Crystal Lake aquatic center is scheduled to open in May 2013.
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