Illinois Public Media News
Christie Clinic has joined Carle Clinic in agreeing to increase the number of Medicaid patients it accepts for treatment.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan sued the two Champaign-Urbana medical clinics two years ago - claiming they conspired illegally to stop accepting new Medicaid patients. Carle settled with the state last December. And late yesterday (Monday), the attorney general's office announced Christie had done the same.
Under the settlement, Christie Clinic will increase the number of Medicaid patients it takes in for primary health care to 85-hundred over the next three years. And those patients can't be turned away for existing medical debt for a four-year period prior to the state's lawsuit --- that's when the attorney general says qualified Medicaid patients were turned away. Christie will also make payments to Frances Nelson Health Center and the Champaign Urbana Public Health District to help pay for medical and dental care for low-income patients.
Christie spokeswoman Karen Blatzer denies that happened, and she said the suit was settled to curb costs. "We don't want the perception to be that we are guilty. But we feel that it is more important to provide the health care our community needs, and being involved in this lawsuit was expensive and very distracting," Blatzer said.
Blatzer did not know how much the additional Medicaid patient load would cost Christie. The clinic has agreed to increase its Medicaid patient rolls to 85-hundred by 2012.
Blatzer says the payments to Frances Nelson Health Center and the Champaign Urbana Public Health District equal when Christie has given to them in the past.
Local health departments are keeping an eye out for the potential of a flu outbreak, but they've been planning for such an occasion for years.
Champaign-Urbana Public Health District director Julie Pryde says even though there have been no reported cases of swine flu in Illinois, there are some common sense measures you should be following, whether or not there's an outbreak. One is to stay home from work or school if you're sick.
"If you have a fever, stay home, contact your doctor or your health care provider," Pryde said. "Don't go around other people when you are sick. That's good public health practice in general, but it's especially important during a time where there is a potential for a pandemic outbreak."
The health district has been promoting a "Stock Two for Flu" campaign for the past few years - it asks shoppers to buy one or two extra food items or other personal needs to keep in stock at home in case a flu pandemic keeps them at home. But she stresses that there's no need to fear or panic over the potential.
School officials are trying to spread the word that cleanliness is also important in keeping influenza at bay - principals in Champaign Unit 4 are being asked to make sure their students are regularly washing their hands.
Illinois public health officials say swine flu has yet to show up in the state, but it will eventually.
Doctor Damon Arnold, the state's public health director, says his agency is closely monitoring the situation....
"The department and its public health partners including local health departments, hospitals and emergency departments are on full alert to watch for possible cases," Arnold said. "We are prepared to act swiftly to assure early detection and warning and to respond in the event of a case or cases are identified to limit its spread within the state."
The swine flu has proven deadly in Mexico... but the cases in the U-S have so far been milder. Arnold says the state has been planning for a pandemic event over the past few years, and says a 2006 training exercise focused on what the state would do if a similar flu outbreak occurred. He says the public should go about normal routines, but those who are feeling ill should stay home.
A doctor recently appointed by Gov. Pat Quinn to lead a scandal-plagued state board has withdrawn from the job because of a conflict of interest.
Quinn's office announced Tuesday that Dr. Quentin Young withdrew as chairman of the Health Facilities Planning Board because he has a minority interest in a doctor's office that owns property being leased to a health care system. Young says he is stepping down willingly.
Under state law, board members can't have business relationships with health care institutions. Young identified the conflict after his appointment last week.
Quinn had tapped Young to help resurrect the image of the board, which was caught up in the scandal that helped bring down former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Home bakers who have been selling their goods at the Urbana farmer's market have been speaking out against a health department order that would put them out of business. For years, the city-operated Market On The Square in downtown Urbana has featured local bakers --- including many who bake in their home kitchens, which don't undergo health inspections. But this month, the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District announced a ban on the sale of home baked goods at farmers markets and similar venues. The home bakers say the ban came at the last minute, as their preparations for this year's farmer's market are already underway. At Monday night's Urbana City Council meeting, Alderwoman Heather Stevenson said the ban has upset a lot of people.
"I've -- in three days --- heard from about 20 people," said Stevenson. "That's too many to not say anything."
Dan Erwin of Champaign told the city council that he's been selling baked goods made at his home kitchen at the Market in the Square for 20 years. He said the rules had stayed about the same that whole time. "And then all of a sudden, two days before we're supposed to be signing up for this season", said Erwin, "I got this letter saying, in short, you can't do this anymore."
Mayor Laurel Prussing says a memo she received last night from Public Health District Board Chair Carol Elliott seems to say that the home-baked goods are allowed at farmers' markets after all, as long as they don't involve fillings that require refrigeration. But Prussing says she'll check into the matter further. Urbana's Market on the Square opens May 2nd.
A free prescription-drug dropoff program is taking place this week, a year after the first effort brought in an unexpectedly high number of old drugs.
Carle RX Express locations in Champaign-Urbana, Mahomet and Monticello are collecting old, outdated or unused prescription and over-the-counter drugs all this week.
Greg Puszkiewicz is the director of the pharmacies - he says last year the stores accepted 526 pounds of medications and turned them over to the City of Urbana, which is helping sponsor the dropoff.
"The City of Urbana comes and picks it up and takes it to their facility, then the next day the EPA comes and picks it up and they take it to Texas where it's incinerated," Puszkiewicz said.
Puszkiewicz says last year, the first-ever dropoff happened just as news stories appeared about traces of pharmaceuticals found in drinking water supplies. He says that spurred patients to take action and get rid of their old drugs in a safe way, instead of flushing them down the drain or the toilet - in some cases, participants had been holding onto the medications for more than twenty years.
Illinois's governor has appointed a longtime advocate of universal health care to a troubled state board. The move comes amid questions about whether the board should even exist.
Quentin Young will chair the state's Health Facilities Planning Board. The board regulates where the facilities can be built or taken away. Critics say the board stifles competition ... but Young says a little planning will lead to a fairer system.
"There's no perfect way, obviously, to have balance between regulation and competition. But this planning agency is an attempt to control the devastating cost of health care," Young said.
The board has been a venue for graft and kickbacks, involving close associates of former Governor Rod Blagojevich. Congressman Mark Kirk suggests abolishing the board, calling it, quote: "an opportunity for total corruption." Kirk is thought to be mulling a run for governor.
Incumbent Pat Quinn says the key is appointing trustworthy people. Quentin Young has been a civil rights activist, Pat Quinn's personal physician.
Backers of health insurance reform in Illinois say companies need to put care for their recipients ahead of executive bonuses.
The AARP and state Public Interest Research Group, or PIRG, are among those urging state senators to follow the example of the Illinois House, and pass the Health Insurance Consumer Protection Act.
The measure would require insurance companies to spend at least 75% of premium dollars on medical care instead of executive salaries, marketing, or profits. 76-year old Felicia Boss of Champaign says her monthly premium went up more than 60 dollars from one year to the next without any explanation. "You have to accept it, you can't live without it," says Boss. "I know many residents where I live are looking into new plans, if they can find something. And so if there was full disclosure out there for us from the companies, at least we'd be able to choose for ourselves what would best fit our budget." The bill would also allow the Office of Consumer Health Insurance to function as a watchdog group to ensure companies aren't denying claims or hiking premiums. The measure passed the Illinois House last week. Lawmakers, including senators, are currently on break, and return two weeks from today.
A spokeswoman for Urbana-based Health Alliance Medical Plans says 90-percent of the company's premiums are going to medical care. But Jane Hayes says Health Alliance is concerned that the bill as currently written doesn't allow insurance providers to provide input to help determine company standards.
The re-opening of Prairie Center Health System's detox unit in Champaign is paying immediate dividends for those recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.
Most of the facility's 10 beds have remained filled since it reopened last week. State funds were restored to the unit last month; the facility had been closed since August. But spokeswoman Betty Seidel says the uncertainty over getting that money for another year has prompted a series of community forums on the Detox unit's long-term viability. Seidel says health care professionals and law enforcement from Champaign, Vermilion and Ford Counties are seeking out additional resources, and they don't necessarily include money.
"Nursing, medicine, training, or something of that sort," says Seidel. "We haven't really exausted all the possibilties of help that we feel would keep the doors open and we feel strong that we can go a year. But beyond the year, we know that need to have some more resources," Seidel says the first in the series of forums last week served largely as a tutorial on what services are provided at the Detox facility. Attendees included county sheriff's departments, those from hospital emergency rooms, and mental health professionals that are often responsible for bringing patients into the detox unit. Prairie Center does have one fundraiser scheduled. All the funds from its annual golf outing this June will go towards that facility.
The head of a St. Louis-based consulting firm hired to manage the Champaign County Nursing Home says there will be no quick turnaround for the facility. But Management Performance Associates President Michael Scavotto also says the home is also getting a bit of a bad rap due to a massive debt... empty beds... and an uneven number of Medicaid and Medicare residents. Scavatto just completed his first visit to the Nursing Home, getting a first-hand look at the facility and meeting with staff. AM 580's Jeff Bossert spoke with him.
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