Illinois Public Media News
The Peoria Catholic Diocese is filing a federal lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act's mandate that employers provide contraceptive services.
According to the suit, the mandate violates core religious and moral convictions. Diocese Attorney Patricia Gibson said in a statement the suit is "not about whether people have access to services, but rather about the freedom to practice religion without government interference."
A child who contracted a new strain of swine flu has become the first Illinois case of the illness.
The Illinois Department of Public Health announced the case today, encouraging state and county fairgoers to wash their hands frequently around pigs.
Backers of a pair of referenda on the future of the Champaign County Nursing Home say they're giving up on their proposal, and pulling it from the agenda at Tuesday night's Champaign County Board Committee of the Whole meeting.
One referendum would have authorized the county board to raise property taxes for additional funding for the nursing home. The other ballot question would have authorized the board to consider selling or leasing the facility.
The referenda proposal was sponsored by County Board members Chris Alix and Brendan McGinty (both D-Urbana) and Ron Bensyl (R-Royal). Alix said they wanted the county board to have the authority to take drastic action, if necessary.
"These were intended to be contingency plans," Alix said. "There were no immediate plans to do either, and there still aren't. But as we got further into the discussion, and heard a number of useful comments from other members of the board, it was pretty clear that a majority of the board is satisfied with the way things are going, and doesn't see the need to take action at this point."
Meanwhile, the referenda also failed to win support from the Champaign County Nursing Home Board of Directors. Chair Mary Ellen O'Shaughnessey wrote in a letter to the county board that the nursing home has gone four years without needing extra funds and did not require a tax increase. She added asking voters to consider selling or leasing the home could create uncertainty about the facility's future, making it harder to attract residents.
Alix said despite their decision to drop the referenda, the Champaign County Board needs to remain attentive to the nursing home's finances in the long term, because of its reliance on Medicaid funds for much of its operations.
Meanwhile, voters in neighboring Vermilion County will vote in November on a referendum on whether to sell the county-owned Vermilion Manor Nursing Home.
Sen. Kirk Releases Video on Recovery from Stroke
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk has released a second video message detailing his recovery after a January stroke, saying he's in contact with his office several times a day and has climbed 145 flights of stairs.
The three-minute video was released Sunday. It's his second since he began rehabilitation.
The video shows scenes of the Republican senator walking up stairs with help and speaking from his Fort Sheridan home. His office says he recently completed a 9-week mobility study at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. During the study he walked nearly 15 miles and climbed stairs.
In the video, Kirk says he's in touch with his office several times daily and is helping Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin find a replacement for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald who's announced his resignation.
It's easy to be swayed to turn to fast and affordable food that may not be healthy. But in Urbana, there’s a push to teach people the basics of healthy cooking on a budget.
At Urbana High School, Amanda Perez teaches an independent living class that aims to prepare teenagers as they enter the “real world.”
“So, we’re preparing students to live on their own,” Perez explained. “So, a lot of that is focused on the financial career aspect, but what goes into that is, ‘Ok, you’re living on your own. What kind of food are you going to eat because the kind of food that you eat kind of influences everything else you do?’"
Perez is working with teenagers to help them think about think about food differently. Students in the class are required to prepare a healthy meal on a budget with ingredients that meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new dietary recommendations.
The office of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., said Thursday that the Chicago Democrat's medical condition is more serious than staff initially thought or believed.
"Recently, we have been made aware that he has grappled with certain physical and emotional ailments privately for a long period of time," an emailed statement said.
It said Jackson is being evaluated and treated at an in-patient medical facility, and his doctors believe he will be there for an extended period of time, followed by outpatient treatment.
"We ask that you keep Congressman Jackson and his family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult period," the statement concluded.
This is the first update on Jackson's health in over a week, when his staff said he was on medical leave and being treated for "exhaustion."
The once-rising Democratic star has faced accusations that he signed off on a pay-to-play offer aimed at winning a U.S. Senate appointment from ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Jackson has never been charged and has denied wrongdoing, though the House Ethics Committee is investigating.
In addition, the congressman acknowledged a private marital issue.
Long known for a near-perfect voting record in the U.S. House, Jackson has missed more than 70 straight votes.
Meantime, Jackson's Republican opponent in the November election said the public deserves to know more about the congressman's health.
"My heart goes out to him - keep him in our thoughts and prayers for a good, quick recovery," Brian Woodworth said Thursday.
But on the other hand, Woodworth said, Jackson's office is not being specific enough.
"Somebody who had a stroke like Senator Kirk - it's assumed he's going to be out for a long time. Somebody who's having hernia surgery, you're going to be out for a couple days," Woodworth said. "So, for the public to understand what's going on with the representative, I think there's an obligation to be more open. And that's all I'm saying."
The Second Congressional District, which stretches from Chicago's South Side to past Kankakee, is overwhelmingly Democratic.
Restaurant owners had several months to prepare for the new restriction. The smoking ban become law in March, but it didn't go until affect until the start of this month.
Businesses covered by the policy must remove all ashtrays and post signs stating that smoking is prohibited within 8 feet of an entrance.
Liz Hammer works as a waitress at Benjamin's Restaurant in Covington, and she said business has not been hurt by the ban.
"We've only had two people that have even asked us if we still have smoking," Hammer said. "You know, like most people already know it, and the ones that have we just told them that it's gone statewide and we've had absolutely no problems."
Susan Smith runs the Duck's Diner in West Lebanon. She said she began preparing for the transition about three months ago by creating smoking and non-smoking dining areas.
"I lost, I think, two customers when I separated the two because there were two customers who didn't want to go to back, but in turn, I gained customers because I have a non-smoking dining room," Smith said.
Now, Smith said she hasn't seen a drop in business since the smoking ban started up.
Unlike Illinois where you can't smoke in a public place, in Indiana smoking is still allowed at bars, casinos, horse-racing facilities, retail tobacco shops and private clubs.
Backers of the measure say they want to see the law become more restrictive, while critics argue that it should be up to business owners to allow smoking.
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.
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