Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 23, 2012

Hospital Offers Employees Incentives to Stay Healthy

Carle Spokesman Sean Williams works out on the treadmill in his department.

A growing number of companies across the country have started encouraging employees to stay healthy by offering financial incentives. Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, which is one of the largest employers in the area, is pushing for a healthier workforce through its Charge Rewards Program. Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers reports on how it works.

(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)

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Categories: Business, Health

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 23, 2012

PCB Concerns Prompt Special Protection for Mahomet Aquifer

PCB Concerns Prompt Special Protection for Mahomet Aquifer

Worries about the Clinton Landfill's proposal to store hazardous PCB's are fueling a quest for a special federal designation for areas that get drinking water from the Mahomet Aquifer.

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WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 23, 2012

Prep Work for Crystal Lake Pool Demolition Underway

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 says demolition of the pool and related buildings will begin as soon as site preparation is completed. And he hopes that construction of the new Crystal Lake aquatic center can follow this summer, on the heels of the demolition. He says the construction plans have been sent to the Illinois Department of Public Health, and they're waiting for the agency's approval.

"They'll do a thorough review of what's being proposed", says Bartlett. "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 says 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 says 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 says.

The new Crystal Lake aquatic center is scheduled to open in May of 2013.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 23, 2012

Former President Carter Speaks at Nobel Laureate Conference

Former President Jimmy Carter says the United States needs to find a way to be a leader in global peace.

Carter spoke Monday in Chicago at the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates. The Nobel summit has taken place for a dozen years, but this is the first time it's been held on this continent. Mikhail Gorbachev, the Dalai Lama and Carter are just a few of the Nobel Peace Prize winners expected at the conference.

Carter says that the United States has a responsibility to promote the values of the Nobel Peace Prize winners because the U.S. is the only global superpower. Carter also spoke about economic embargos.

The conference comes just weeks before Chicago hosts President Barack Obama and foreign leaders for the NATO summit.

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Categories: Government, History, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 23, 2012

Former President Carter Speaks at Nobel Laureate Conference

Former President Jimmy Carter says the United States needs to find a way to be a leader in global peace.

Carter spoke Monday in Chicago at the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates. The Nobel summit has taken place for a dozen years, but this is the first time it's been held on this continent. Mikhail Gorbachev, the Dalai Lama and Carter are just a few of the Nobel Peace Prize winners expected at the conference.

Carter says that the United States has a responsibility to promote the values of the Nobel Peace Prize winners because the U.S. is the only global superpower. Carter also spoke about economic embargos.

The conference comes just weeks before Chicago hosts President Barack Obama and foreign leaders for the NATO summit.

Categories: Government, History, Politics


AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 23, 2012

Indiana Gov. Addressing Group Pushing for Safer Stages

Gov. Mitch Daniels is taking Indiana's lessons from last summer's deadly State Fair stage collapse to an entertainment industry group that's pushing for safer outdoor venues.

The governor will give members of the Event Safety Alliance an update Monday afternoon on Indiana's efforts to safeguard temporary venues following the Aug. 13 stage rigging collapse that killed seven people before a scheduled concert by country duo Sugarland.

Two investigative reports released this month found that the stage rigging didn't meet industry safety standards and that fair officials lacked a fully developed emergency plan.

Jim Digby of the Event Safety Alliance will also speak at Monday's briefing at the Indiana Government Center in Indianapolis. Digby is tour manager for the rock band Linkin Park.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 20, 2012

Quinn Wants Medicaid Cuts, Tax Hike

(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)

Gov. Pat Quinn has come out with a proposal that he said will rescue Illinois' hemorrhaging Medicaid program. It would cut health care services and raise the state's cigarette tax.

In recent years, Illinois has added programs and bulked-up services to help people who don't have or can't afford private health insurance. There is "All Kids," which offers state-subsidized coverage for children. Illinois Cares R-X, which helps low-income seniors pay for prescription drugs.

Those are just two examples of the nearly three dozen programs that would be affected by a proposal unveiled Thursday by Gov. Quinn. He also wants to hike the tax on cigarettes.

A lot of Illinois residents rely on Medicaid to pay for their health care. These days, every other baby born in Illinois is covered by it.

An uptick partially prompted by the recession that, coupled with Illinois' increases in coverage, has made costs soar. Medicaid accounts for 40 percent of the state budget, a number that Quinn said will grow unless something's done to rein it in.

"In order to save the system -- to rescue the system, to have a system of health care for our most vulnerable residents all across Illinois, 2.7 million people, lots of 'em children -- we have to make some fundamental changes," Quinn said. "Now these are difficult changes, but if we don't make those changes, we won't have a system at all."

Quinn's proposed a three-pronged approach. It relies on raising the state tax on cigarettes, paying doctors and hospitals less for taking care of Medicaid patients and cutting programs and the number of people who qualify for them.

Those cuts are wide-ranging. Some aren't too hard to swallow, like limiting recipients to one pair of eyeglasses every two years. Other cuts are more like cost controls. Prior approval would be needed to get a wheelchair repaired or for HIV and cancer patients to get certain drugs. The state limit paying for the delivery of babies via c-section.

Then there are moratoriums on admissions to mental institutions, and knocking 26,000 adults off a state insurance program.

In order to prevent more cuts, Quinn is proposing raising the state's 98-cent tax on cigarettes by a dollar.

"It's one of the largest drivers of cost in our Medicaid system," Quinn said. "Now the proven strategy of preventing more people from smoking and continuing to smoke is to raise the price of cigarettes. That's just common sense."

And as a bonus, Quinn said that would trigger an extra infusion of cash from the federal government.

The American Cancer Society and Lung Association are thrilled.

State Rep. Patti Bellock (R-Hinsdale) said Quinn's plan doesn't go far enough in "scrubbing the rolls." She said there are people who've moved out of state, but still come back to Illinois to use their state-paid Medicaid benefits. She wants recipients to have to prove their eligibility every year. She is concerned that under Quinn's proposal even those who need the care would have a hard time finding it, because doctors will be unwilling to treat them.

The governor's plan calls for a roughly 8 percent decrease in what the state pays caregivers.

Laura Shea is president of the Sangamon County Medical Society, and a practicing psychiatrist in Springfield. She said reimbursements are already too low. Shea said if they go even lower, more doctors may turn away Medicaid patients.

"I'm really concerned about the people who are insured by public aid because I feel like they have a hard time getting treatment already," Shea said.

It is likely that some variety of rate cut will be part of the final deal. It may, however, not be at the level Quinn has proposed.

The governor may have rolled out his plan, but a bipartisan group asked to propose $2.7 billion worth of cuts in Illinois' Medicaid budget failed to come up with a plan by a deadline this week.

State Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) is part of a bipartisan group of legislators the governor had charged with finding a way to cut Medicaid by 15 percent. Righter isn't supportive of Gov, Quinn's plan, noting that Democrats raised the state income tax just last year.

"We're still 6 weeks out from the end of session, the governor's waving the white flag and saying 'you know we're really not going to change the system that much, and we're going to go ahead and raise taxes," he said. "The working group's not done. This is not the working group's plan. This is the governor's plan."

The task force is meeting again Tuesday to come up with its own plan for Medicaid. Whatever the final agreement may be, it is going to hurt.

Advocacy groups have been bracing for proposed cuts and are worried about the impact on the elderly, poor and disabled. David Vinkler of AARP said that cutting some benefits could lead to increases in other costs, like emergency room visits.

"It's going to be really bad," Vinkler said. "People who really need help ... start choosing between food, drugs, and paying their bills.

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Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 20, 2012

Quinn to Unveil Pension Proposals Friday

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn will lay out major proposals for fixing the state's pension mess Friday.

A state lawmaker suggested they will include higher employee contributions and more modest annual increases.

The Democratic governor confirmed his plan Thursday after another major announcement about savings in Medicaid health programs.

Quinn will move forward on a pension fix as a group of lawmakers assigned to suggest ideas has not agreed on a complete plan.

Rep. Elaine Nekritz is a Northbrook Democrat on the committee. She says Quinn's staff told the group he wants employees to make higher contributions toward their pensions and will propose changes to cost-of-living increases. She would not be more specific.

Illinois pension systems are underfunded by $80 billion. Nekritz says Quinn will propose full funding in 30 years.

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Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 20, 2012

Goetten Concedes to Gill in State’s Democratic 13th District Race

A month after Illinois' March 20th primary, the state officially has its Democratic candidate for the 13th Congressional District.

In a press release issued late Friday, Greene County State's Attorney Matt Goetten conceded the primary to Bloomington physician David Gill. Goetten says he was 'honored to earn the support of thousands of people across Central Illinois, who were tired of failed leadership in Washington.'

He says Washington has 'lost touch with hard working men and women in Central Illinois, and it's critical that we have a voice fighting for us. Goetten didn't say he was endorsing Gill, but 'wished him the best of luck in taking on Republicans' failed agenda.'

Final numbers from the Illinois State Board of Elections show Gill defeated Goetten by 163 votes. The numbers were certified Friday by the board at its meeting in Chicago.

Republican party chairs in 14 counties will take a weighted vote to determine the GOP nominee, who will replace retiring Urbana Congressman Tim Johnson.

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Categories: Government, Politics

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