Illinois Public Media News
The U.S. Supreme Court may soon decide if it's constitutional to make Americans buy health insurance. Illinois' two U.S. Senators are both in favor of the Court taking up the issue, but for different reasons.
Republican Sen. Mark Kirk thinks President Obama's controversial health care bill should be overturned.
"In a limited government which defends our rights, I do not believe the federal government has the power to force you to buy anything, especially from a government-controlled entity," Kirk said in a press conference on Monday.
Kirk said he expects the decision to be five judges on one side, four on the other, but he isn't sure which way it'll go.
Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin said he's glad the high court will rule, because messy state court battles can hopefully be avoided.
"I think it is part of individual responsibility in this country that you have health insurance so there is protection for you, your family and for the rest of us," Durbin said.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to begin hearing arguments in March and a ruling is expected by late June.
Illinois' two U.S. senators are proposing federal legislation to protect students with severe allergies.
Earlier this year, the state of Illinois passed a law allowing school nurses to give epinephrine, or an epi-pen, to any student having an allergic attack. The drug quickly reduces symptoms in severe allergic reactions.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) said the proposed law would apply nation-wide, and give any authorized adult the right to give medication.
"If we have a good samaritan law, no one will hesitate because of liability concerns to deliver the epi-pen," Kirk said.
Chicago doctors at Children's Memorial Hospital said at Monday's press conference that mistakenly giving an epi-pen to a child without allergies isn't dangerous, and for the one in 25 kids with severe food allergies, it can save their life.
As for who will pay for the medication, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said, "My guess is PTA's will have no problem with a little bake sale to pay for them if necessary."
Kirk and Durbin said they'll introduce the legislation in the Senate this week and they expect it to have wide bi-partisan support.
Different health care groups that recently formed a coalition determined to fight diabetes in Champaign County met Monday as part of a diabetes expo.
Coalition member Martha Paap said about seven percent of 18-to-64 year olds in Champaign County have type 2 diabetes. That translates to more than 11,000 people. Paap, who heads Provena's Center for Healthy Aging, said while that is slightly lower than the national average, she worries that number will rise.
"The kind of consequences to diabetes can be very, very serious such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, lower limb amputations, kidney problems," Paap said. "It can be a very devastating disease that we really need to prevent."
Theresa Truelove, a nurse with the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, said many of these cases represent African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics, who moved to the United States from another country, and are adjusting to changes in their lifestyle.
"They go from potentially field work to office work or no work," Truelove said. "You've got the whole change of the activity levels of people as they come into our society, and that is in a way deadly for diabetes."
Some of the preventative measures to reduce the chances of diabetes include changes in diet and more physical activity. According to the International Diabetes Federation, at least one in 10 adults could have diabetes by 2030.
Champaign-based Christie Clinic and health insurance provider PersonalCare have agreed to a contract that ends a dispute that went public six weeks ago. But the agreement still requires most customers to find another insurer --- or other doctors --- beginning Jan. 1, 2012.
The new contract will cover Christie patients covered by PersonalCare's Medicare Advantage plan, and its self-funded payor insurance products. But it will not cover any plans for state employees or retirees. And the new contract leaves out any of PersonalCare's HMO, Preferred Provider or Point-of-Sale plans for other Christie patients.
The new contract comes after a dispute in which PersonalCare told Christie Clinic in September it was ending its contract with the medical clinic. The health insurer later said the move was only a step towards new contract negotiations. But Christie officials didn't see it that way, and announced their contract with PersonalCare was over, for most purposes. The dispute added to the confusion already caused by the state's reshuffling of state employee health care packages.
(Editor's note: CU-CitizenAccess.org is taking an in-depth look at nursing homes in Central Illinois. Earlier this week, we sat down with Chuck Schuette, the new administrator for the Champaign County Nursing Home to discuss his plans to tackle the challenges facing the county's nursing home (see interview below). For more on this project and interactive tools you can use to evaluate nursing homes in your area, tune in to Illinois Public Media or visit CU-CitizenAccess.org on Monday, Dec. 5. Want to be part of the project or have a story to share about a nursing home experience in East Central Illinois? Contact reporters Dan Petrella or Pam G. Dempsey)
For Effingham native Chuck Schuette, running a nursing home has always been the plan.
So when he saw the chance to oversee a nursing home, he took it.
Schuette, the new Champaign County Nursing Home administrator, started his new job Oct. 31. He replaced Andrew Buffenbarger, who served as the County Nursing Home administrator since 2004.
Schuette, 59, worked as the chief nursing officer for 24 years at St. Anthony's Memorial Hospital in Effingham.
"Coming from an acute-care background, I did get some experience, because at the hospital we developed a skilled-care unit and in regards to that, I went and got my long-term care nursing home license (in 1995)," he said. "I kept it all these years with the idea that one day I would go into long-term care."
Schuette has his work cut out for him.
Like other nursing homes in the area, the Champaign County Nursing Home has faced several challenges in recent years: late payments from the state, numerous complaint investigations by the Illinois Department of Public Health and difficulty in managing staff retention.
The nursing home is also rated overall two out of five stars on a federal Medicare compare site (see http://www.medicare.gov/NHCompare). The overall federal rating is a combination of the health inspection rating, the staffing rating, and the quality measures rating.
A little more than three years ago, the Champaign County Board contracted with Management Performance Associates, a St. Louis-based firm, to provide day-to-day management oversight for the operation of the nursing home, said Deb Busey, Champaign County administrator.
Since the contract began in 2008, the nursing home's finances improved, as had its patient count, county officials said. The County Board renewed its contract with the management firm in June.
Buffenbarger is moving to a new position within Management Performance Associates.
Schuette (pronounced shoot-y) said that while this is his first job heading a nursing home, "I am excited, enthused and happy to be here."
"The big difference in acute care is you only see the patients three or four days max," he said," and here people are here for the rest of their lives, for many cases. That is really an advantage. You really get to know the people and know the families and it's kind of a community."
In the transition from acute care to long-term care, Schuette said the largest "culture shock" comes from the delay in state reimbursement payments.
"It should be fine, but it's scary," Schuette said. "I think about it constantly, 'Are you going to have enough money?' "
But with other nursing homes facing similar pressure, "somehow they get through it, and I'm going to learn how they get through it over the next few months."
His to-do list is long. One of his priorities includes bolstering the nursing staff.
"Nurses just aren't being valued for what they really are and what they can offer people, and I want to try and make sure that is sensed here and the nurses feel that here and hopefully nurses will say, 'This is where we want to work,' " Schuette said.
The staffing level at the nursing home is "higher than what is required for regulatory compliance," he said, and he hopes to keep it that way.
"We're maintaining that and keeping it at a higher level of staffing," Schuette said. "Will we then be forced to go down to minimum regulatory standards? I'm getting the sense we won't have to go in that direction. ... We'll probably never drop down to minimum staffing levels."
Resident safety is another priority.
"We want to make sure we endeavor to be regulatory compliant," he said. "This is a heavily regulated industry and for good reason, it needs to be that way. We're talking about the safety of our residents. I want to really work on that, to make sure that each and every time we are surveyed, that we are actually reducing the number of tags and that we are really spending a lot of time making sure we are in compliance and our residents are safe."
Schuette has spent the past 10 days settling into the job and says he'll develop more goals and strategies over the next three months.
"I think we have the things here to do it and do it well," he said. "It's going to take leadership ... my real job is trying to be a leader and motivate people to a higher performance. That's what I hope to do."
(Produced by Sean Powers/WILL)
A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Tuesday in Champaign to mark the opening of a new dental clinic for low-income, uninsured, and Medicaid eligible patients.
Located at the Francis Nelson Health Center, the 1,000 square-foot clinic seeks to treat about 2,500 people within the next year. Nancy Greenwalt is the director of Smile Healthy, a community-based initiative to provide dental care to the undeserved. She said in addition to having a dentist, three full-time dental assistants, and two part-time hygienists on staff, the clinic also has volunteer translators who speak both Spanish and English.
"Dental care is a procedure, and the patients need to understand what's going on - payment, contact information," said Greenwalt, who noted that up to 40 percent of the patients at the Francis Nelson Health Center speak Spanish. "It's just not possible without the translation services."
Smile Healthy operates another program that provides dental care for children. According to the United Way of Champaign County, that program has over 200 additional children waiting for care. All are 200 percent of the poverty level or below, and most are on Medicaid.
United Way President Lyn Jones said the clinic is needed more than ever.
"There are people who are missing work because of dental problems, causing extreme pain," Jones said. "This really will improve the overall health of citizens in Champaign County."
According to the United Way, at the time when the Francis Nelson dental clinic opened on Oct. 17, about a thousand people were on a waiting list for cavity fillings, teeth extraction, and other dental care.
More than half a million dollars in donations were used to start up the clinic, and the United Way of Champaign County hopes to raise approximately $50,000 to sustain dental services.
The cost of using the clinic's services will be determined on a sliding scale based on a person's income. Medicare does not cover dental costs.
The clinic is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 819 Bloomington Road in Champaign.
Other Champaign County groups offering dental service to low-income people include the Champaign County Christian Health Center, Champaign County Healthcare Consumers, Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, and the Parkland College Dental Hygiene Program.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)
Like other nursing homes, the Champaign County Nursing Home has faced delays in state payments, numerous complaint investigations and trouble with staff retention. The Champaign County board hired a management firm to address these problems in 2008, and a week ago a new administrator stepped in at the nursing home. Effingham native Chuck Schuette replaced former administrator Andrew Buffenbarger, who took another position within the management firm. Schuette spoke with CU-CitizenAccess reporter Pam Dempsey about his plans for the job.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)
New Records Show More Restaurant Inspection Failures
(Reported by Dan Petrella of CU-CitizenAccess)
When public health officials conducted a routine inspection of Quizno's in Urbana last month, they discovered 12 critical health-code violations.
NOTE: This story was updated and expanded on 10/27/11.
State Sen. Mike Frerichs (D-Champaign) says he is disappointed that his bill to nullify the new group health insurance plans for state workers and retirees failed to survive a gubernatorial veto on Wednesday.
Senators failed to override the veto on a vote of 28-to-28, with Senate President John Cullerton voting Present. But Frerichs said the fight against what he sees as an inferior package of health plans isn't over yet.
"We're not done fighting, and this is a speed bump, it's not a roadblock," Frerichs said. "We still have a very good case going through the courts. And we still have time, because we extended contracts through June 30, to work on a solution in the spring session."
Frerichs was referring to the contract extensions of existing health plans --- including those from Urbana-based Health Alliance. They are meant to give time for the dispute over the health plans to play out. Frerichs' legislation would have gone further, canceling the new health plans entirely and starting the process of approving new contracts all over again --- but taking oversight of the procurement process to the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, and returning it to the Illinois Department of Central Management Services.
Frerichs also says he hasn't entirely given up on reaching a compromise with Governor Pat Quinn, despite his veto of the bill.
"The governor made fairly clear that he was opposed to this bill", says Frerichs. "But he did leave open the possibility of some sort of negotiations. So I'm going to listen to him, see if there's some sort of compromise that we can reach. If we can't though, we're prepared to go forward and try again."
Frerichs charges the Quinn administration with working to switch votes in the Senate on his bill, which passed the chamber 37 to 12 in May
The new health insurance plans announced by the Quinn administration last April drew criticism because they replaced existing health plans --- such as those from Health Alliance --- with ones not generally available in many counties or with certain physician groups --- such as Carle, which owns Health Alliance, and has an exclusive contract with them.
A company that supplies sandwiches to convenience stores, supermarkets and other outlets, is recalling two of its products, because they may be contaminated with Listeria.
St Louis-based Landshire Incorporated is recalling its Nike All-American and Nike Super Poor Boy sandwiches, after two samples from the company's plant in Caseyville tested positive for Listeria. The Illinois Department of Public Health says the sandwiches were made between Aug. 25 and Oct. 6. The Public Health Department says neither they nor Landshire have received any reports of confirmed illnesses due to the sandwiches.
Public Health officials say that Listeria symptoms vary, but can be serious and sometimes fatal in young children, pregnant women, the elderly and other with weakened immune symptoms. The symptoms can include fever, muscle aches, severe headaches and stiffness, abdominal pain and diarrhea. In pregnant women, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages or stillbirths.
If you've bought one of the sandwiches, you can return them to the place of purchase for a refund. They're identified by specific production lot codes affected by the recall range from 11 237 6 through 11 285 6. The codes can be found on the side or back of the individual packaged sandwich.
If you have questions about the sandwiches, you should contact Landshire at 314-925-4009.
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