Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 30, 2011

Carle Rantoul Office to Reopen Friday After Closing Due to Sewer Line Problem

Carle Physician Group announced at midday on Thursday that its Rantoul office was temporarily closed, due to a problem with its sewer line.

Carle will reopen Friday. Patients who have appointments scheduled for Friday should plan to keep their appointments.

If you have questions, please call Carle's Rantoul office at 217-893-7700.

Categories: Biography, Health

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 28, 2011

Gov. Pat Quinn Signs Workers’ Compensation Reform

New regulations clamping down on workers' compensation abuses in Illinois have been signed into law.

The changes include a 30 percent reduction in medical payments. Other provisions include letting payments for carpal tunnel syndrome last only 28 1/2 weeks, instead of 40. New guidelines also will make it harder for intoxicated workers to win claims.

During a visit to Champaign Tuesday afternoon, Governor Pat Quinn praised the measure, saying the changes are reasonable.

"The reforms we enacted I think will help workers and maintain their right to get compensation for an injury and at the same time be fair to the employers, and not in any way take advantage of them," Quinn said.

But State Senator Shane Cultra (R-Onarga) said the workers comp legislation does not go far enough. He said it could do a better job connecting injuries that happen as a result of a job, rather than at a job.

"With causation, it's like putting a band-aid because you're still going to have claims filed that probably shouldn't be filed and attributed to workers' comp," Cultra said.

The changes to workers' compensation are expected to cut between $500 million and $700 million from the $3 billion workers' compensation system.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 28, 2011

Wife of Ex-Ill. Gov. George Ryan Dies at Age 76

Lura Lynn Ryan, the former Illinois first lady who spent the waning years of her life seeking freedom for her imprisoned husband, former Gov. George Ryan, has died after a long bout with cancer. She was 76.

Lura Lynn Ryan died late Monday at Riverside Medical Center in Kankakee, said Andrea Lyons, an attorney for George Ryan. She had been diagnosed with lung cancer and hospitalized for apparent complications from chemotherapy.

She was a steadfast supporter of the former governor, whom she had met in high school, and maintained that he had never done anything wrong during his lengthy political career. They had been married for 55 years.

The former governor, serving time on federal corruption charges, was quietly escorted from his prison cell in Terre Haute, Ind., to be at her side for two hours in January in the intensive care unit at a Kankakee hospital, about 130 miles away. She had been hospitalized earlier in the day and, according to George Ryan's lawyer, drifted in and out of sleep and struggled to speak while he was there, though she recognized him.

The secret visit was not revealed until two days later, when federal prosecutors mentioned it in a court filing arguing against a request by Ryan's lawyers to have him released on bail so he could spend more time with his dying wife. The former governor was convicted on federal corruption charges in 2006, and has served three years of a 6 1/2-year sentence for racketeering, conspiracy, tax fraud and making false statements to the FBI.

Lura Lynn Lowe grew up in the Kankakee County village of Aroma Park where her family, originally from Germany, had lived since 1834. Her father owned one of the nation's first hybrid seed companies. She moved to Kankakee for high school.

She and the former governor met in high school English class. Together, they have five daughters, one son and more than a dozen grandchildren.

Lura Lynn Ryan had no idea when they got married that her husband would go into politics. He started life as a Kankakee drug store owner.

But his brother was mayor and she started to think her husband might run for office when he helped a friend who was running for the county board and seemed to have a flair for politics.

The climb was steady, from a seat in the General Assembly to lieutenant governor to secretary of state and finally the governorship - reaching the pinnacle of both state government and Illinois' Republican establishment. She spoke admiringly of the mansion in Springfield - her official home for four years.

Prosecutors say the road to the top was marred by corruption. But she focused on the positive, including Ryan's unprecedented commuting of all 156 inmates on Illinois' death row before leaving office in 2003, and his efforts to curb drunken driving. She made it a priority to participate in charitable causes, such as a program to influence teenagers to avoid drug and alcohol abuse.

"As my children grew older and I could be with him (Ryan), I kind of took up my little causes," she said. "And I think we did make a difference."

Ryan was convicted in 2006 of steering state contracts and leases to political insiders while he was secretary of state and then governor for one term. He received vacations and gifts in return. He also was accused of stopping an investigation into secretary of state employees accepting bribes in exchange for truck driver's licenses.

In 2000, Lura Lynn Ryan was pulled into the licenses-for-bribes scandal when a woman claimed she'd handed her a letter in 1998 detailing corruption at a truck licensing facility. The alleged hand-off happened at an event nine months before George Ryan was elected governor, and the former first lady said she didn't remember the letter or the woman.

Lura Lynn Ryan grew increasingly frail during her final years, appearing at her husband's court appearances with an oxygen tank.

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 27, 2011

LIFE ON ROUTE 150: The Stigma of Food Stamps

The 2008 recession has taken its toll up and down U.S. Route 150 - and the U.S. Department of Agriculture says almost every Illinois county along the 150 corridor has seen an uptick in 2010 in use of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps. But anti-hunger advocates say many people who have lost their jobs are NOT taking advantage of SNAP. Illinois Public Media's Dave Dickey reports as a part of the series "Life on Route 150.

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WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 22, 2011

Health Care Group Urges Lawmakers to Avoid Social Security Cuts

Members of a health care advocacy group are urging Congress to avoid touching Social Security as a bipartisan panel looks to reduce the national deficit.

Champaign County Health Care Consumers has sent a letter to Senator Dick Durbin, speculating that his 'Gang of Six' is still looking at cuts to Social Security. The group's Medicare Task Force says a myth is being spread on Capitol Hill that the program adds to the deficit. Thomas Rohrer is a member of the group's Medicare Task Force. He said he is concerned about any efforts to privatize Social Security.

"The stock market crashed a couple years ago, and people lost a lot of money," Rorher said. "And if social security people lose their benefits - where would they go? What would happen? At least the government provides a safety net."

The consumers' group also opposes any talk of raising the retirement age from 67 to 69. Rohrer said he has friends who simply can't stay in their current jobs until that age, and worries about age discrimination for anyone trying to find new work.

The Health Care Consumers' Executive Director Claudia Lenhoff criticized AARP, noting that the agency is willing to consider raising the retirement age. She said it is 'selling out its constituents' as a result.

"They talk out of both sides of their mouth, saying that they want to protect social security and that making cuts to social security benefits and raising the retirement age is a cut - is important for saving social security," Lenhoff said. "They say that everybody recognizes that social security retirement age must be raised. Really? Everybody?"

Lenhoff noted that the federal government has borrowed $2.6 trillion from the Social Security Reserve Fund.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 21, 2011

UI Law Professor: Problems Facing Health Insurance Contracts Still Loom

State employees in Illinois have settled into their health insurance choices - at least for the next three months.

But a University of Illinois professor says the controversy over the state's attempt to change providers will only resurface as September 17th nears.

Law professor Richard Kaplan said the resolution that let people keep their existing Health Alliance arrangements is only a temporary fix while the courts, the Quinn administration and the state legislature play what he calls a three-level game of chess.

Kaplan said the thousands of state workers and retirees will need to pay special attention to the wrangling in Springfield before the emergency contracts expire.

"There are several parallel tracks that (Judge Brian Otwell's) opinion might get overturned, the governor might sign the two-year keep everything as it is legislation, the contracts may be completely re-negotiated," Kaplan said. "This is very unsettling because this is not some trivial fringe benefit. This is a huge part of people's compensation and it's probably one of the most intimate aspects of their employment."

Kaplan said if Governor Pat Quinn decides to veto legislation to keep the current health insurance contracts for two more years, that could set up a game of chicken where lawmakers could override the veto and nullify the new contracts.

Kaplan said many other large employers will be reconsidering their health insurance options in the months ahead in response to last year's federal health care overhaul.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 20, 2011

Calls, Web Traffic Slow Down as Open Enrollment Closes

In the final hours before the Monday midnight deadline to change health insurance plans, the University of Illinois says calls with questions went down considerably.

University-wide statistics provided by the Office of Human Resources on the Urbana campus show the most on-line transactions took place Thursday, when about 5,000 people opted for a change.

In contrast, the office's Katie Ross said there were 300 transactions total over the weekend. She said phone calls to her office were getting simpler Monday afternoon.

"Calls that we're seeing now are basically from employees that just want to confirm that the last change they made in the system is indeed reflected in our system," Ross said. "Our counselors are able to look up that information very quickly, and confirm that we do have the correct choice."

Ross said if a U of I employee recently indicated they want to add a dependent while enrolling, they have a few days to file the proper documentation, like a birth certificate.

Ninety day extensions of current contracts were granted last week for most providers, including Health Alliance. Health Alliance spokeswoman Jane Hayes said her office has gotten a lot of calls over the weekend and Monday expressing interest in sticking with or switching over to Health Alliance.

It is unclear what happens when the emergency health plans expire, but Hayes said she is encouraged by a Sangamon County Judge's ruling earlier this month stalling the use of self-insurance open access plans.

"Having heard him read in his order that he believes Health Alliance has a good chance of winning the merits of the case, we feel fairly confident that we will win out, and hopefully have a longer-term contract," Hayes said.

Ross said last week that about half the Urbana campus opted for a different health insurance contract. These statistics provided by her office show the number of appliants by day on a university-wide basis over the past week.

Monday 6/13 - About 1,100 transactions Tuesday 6/14 - About 800 transactions Wednesday 6/15 - About 3,000 transactions Thursday 6/16 - About 5,000 transactions Friday 6/17 - About 800 transactions Saturday & Sunday 6/18 & 6/19 - About 300 transactions total over the weekend


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 20, 2011

Planned Parenthood: Monday Ruling Needed on Indiana Law

Planned Parenthood of Indiana says it will stop seeing Medicaid patients if a federal judge doesn't rule Monday on its attempt to block the state's new abortion funding law.

The group said it will stop seeing those patients unless they can pay or use other resources if the judge doesn't rule by the close of business Monday on its request for a preliminary injunction blocking the law.

The law signed May 10 by Gov. Mitch Daniels bars Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid payments for general health services such as cancer screens.

Planned Parenthood has been relying on private donations to fund care for Medicaid clients. It has previously said it would run out of donations after Monday to cover the costs of caring for existing Medicaid patients.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 20, 2011

Legislation Seeks to Expand Farmers’ Market Offerings

Small-time growers and cooks who sell food at farmers market may soon be able to expand their offerings. Advocates for locally made food and health department officials are attempting to find some middle ground.

Nearly all the food at farmers market is regulated, some more than others. Basically, if it's in a jar or prepared in any way it must be done in a certified kitchen. But making the upgrade to one of those kitchens can be costly for someone trying to sell baked goods or preserves.

A measure that passed the state legislature recently would allow people to sell certain kinds of food made in a home kitchen. They would be able to do so without making costly upgrades or receiving the stamp of approval from a health department. Dairy products prone to food borne illness wouldn't be allowed. Only baked goods, dried herbs, teas and canned preserves could be sold.

Wes King is a policy coordinator with the Illinois Stewardship Alliance. He said some health code regulations keep culinary entrepreneurs from branching out. He points to the growth in the number of farmers markets throughout the state.

"We thought that you know, creating a more risk and scale appropriate regulations that would allow some of these start up businesses to take place in their homes or farms that are already selling at the farmers market to add a little bit and diversify their product line," King said.

But health department officials were initially concerned. They wanted to make sure consumers knew the food they were buying came from a facility that hasn't been thoroughly inspected. All food made in a home kitchen will need to be labeled as such if Governor Pat Quinn signs the exemptions into law.

"Because this is an evolving industry there were some challenges on the part of the regulatory environment in terms of where can we be flexible but yet still assure a reasonable consumer protection," Peoria health administrator Greg Chance said.

Chance said he support the measure because it only allows the sale of food not usually prone to food borne illness.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 20, 2011

Study Shows Kids’ Food Allergies More Widespread

More kids may be suffering from food allergies than was previously thought, according to new findings from a Chicago researcher.

Research has already shown that food allergies seem to be on the rise, and now a study of more than 40,000 children shows that one in 13 have a food allergy. That's about twice as many as some recent estimates.

Ruchi Gupta, a pediatrician with Children's Memorial Hospital and Northwestern Medicine and lead author of the study, said some 2.5 million children - including her own daughter - have severe allergies.

"If many of these children, about 40 percent, ingest food that they are allergic to, they could have a reaction that could lead to death. It could be that serious," Gupta said.

Peanut allergies were the most prevalent, followed by milk and shellfish.

Gupta also found that Asian and African-American kids were more likely to go undiagnosed than white children. The study is published in the journal, Pediatrics.

Categories: Health, Science
Tags: health, science

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