Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 29, 2011

Christie Clinic Says It Won’t Talk With PersonalCare

The parent company of health insurance provider PersonalCare says it's continuing negotiations with Christie Clinic, but the Champaign-based medical clinic says it's not interested.

Christie Clinic first announced on Tuesday that PersonalCare had terminated its contract with the clinic, and that patients should switch to other providers in the next enrollment period (Oct. 10 - 28, 2011).

But in a statement posted Wednesday on the University of Illinois HR homepage, PersonalCare said it was still negotiating with Christie Clinic --- at least regarding its Open Access Plan for state employees and retirees.

"Although our agreement is scheduled to terminate on January 1, 2012, it is PersonalCare's strong desire to continue our long-standing partnership with Christie Clinic and that Christie Clinic remain an in-network provider for years to come", the statement said.

The News-Gazette reported that according to a spokesperson for PersonalCare's parent company, Coventry Health Care, the contract termination was a procedural move needed to renegotiate a new contract.

But a statement issued today on the Christie Clinic website that since their contract with PersonalCare had been renewed in the past by simply amending the old agreement, there was "no requirement to terminate the existing agreement in order to renegotiate specific terms".

"Because the Christie Clinic team is committed to providing the highest quality health care to the communities we serve, we are working closely with our patients, the state of Illinois and private employers to make this transition as seamless as possible for Christie Clinic patients," Christie Clinic said in an earlier statement. "We will be working directly with employers and their brokers who currently contract with PersonalCare about their options."

People in Champaign County who want to have uninterrupted access to Christie Clinic physicians are being urged to switch to Health Alliance HMO coverage or Health Link's Open Access Plans in the next enrollment period.

The University of Illinois said it is reviewing what the contract termination means for U of I employees and their dependents who are enrolled in the PersonalCare health plans, and if any decisions need to be made during the upcoming Special Healthcare Enrollment Period.

Categories: Health

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 29, 2011

Illinois US Sen. Mark Kirk Among Lawmakers in Libya

Four Republican senators traveled to Libya on Thursday to meet with the nation's new rulers, the highest-profile American delegation to visit the country since the ouster of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi.

The four lawmakers - John McCain of Arizona, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida - met with the head of the National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, and other high-ranking officials of the group that is now governing Libya after revolutionary forces ousted Gadhafi from power.

The fugitive leader remains on the run and his whereabouts unknown, but Libya's new rulers suspect he is hiding in the southern desert of the North African nation.

The senators toured Martyrs' Square and planned a news conference later Thursday. They traveled from Malta, where they met with Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi on Wednesday.

After months of fighting, anti-Gadhafi forces seized control of Tripoli late last month, and have solidified their control over much of the rest of the country. Battles still continue in three on three main fronts - Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte, Bani Walid and the southern city of Sabha.

The leaders of Britain, France and Turkey have visited Libya, and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman has met with the NTC's leaders in Tripoli. But the congressional group was the most significant American presence to visit Libya as the nation begins a new chapter.

McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and panel member Graham had pressed President Barack Obama for U.S. military intervention in Libya, weeks before the U.N. Security Council voted in March to authorize military action to protect civilians and impose a no-fly zone. McCain had invoked the humanitarian disasters in Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990s.

When other lawmakers criticized Obama for acting with limited congressional consultation, McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, defended the president.

In April, McCain traveled to Benghazi, where he called the rebels "patriots" and "heroes."

Rubio is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Kirk serves on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations.

The trip contrasted sharply to the last visit by McCain and Graham to Tripoli in August 2009, when they met with Gadhafi and his son Muatassim to discuss the possible delivery of non-lethal defense equipment as the erratic Libyan leader was moving to normalize his relations with the international community.

According to a classified document released by WikiLeaks, the delegation, which included McCain, Graham and two other senators, Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins, held back-to-back meetings with Muatassim.

During that visit, McCain characterized the overall pace of the bilateral relationship as excellent during and noted the drastic changes over the previous five years. He also assured Muatassim that the United States wanted to provide Libya with the equipment it needs for its security, the WikiLeaks cable said.

It also noted the senators met with Gadhafi late at night and he hardly said a word. A note at the bottom of the memo said the delegation was told that they had to postpone the meeting from the afternoon because Gadhafi likes to nap after he breaks his fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Categories: Biography, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 29, 2011

Illinois Scientists Land Presidential Award

(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)

Two Illinois researchers have been honored by President Barack Obama as distinguished U.S. science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their research careers.

Dr. Carla Pugh of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Gang Logan Liu of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are among 94 recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers.

The awards honor the pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology, as well as the honorees commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education or community outreach.

"It is inspiring to see the innovative work being done by these scientists and engineers as they ramp up their careers-careers that I know will be not only personally rewarding but also invaluable to the nation," President Obama said.

Pugh is known for her research to develop a physical test that measures medical students' and doctors' ability to perform clinical breast exams. She is using plastic models embedded with data-capturing sensors and simulated tumors to measure the ability to tell the difference between a cancerous lump and a benign cyst.

Liu's research focuses on ways nano-engineering might one day be used to cure diseases and preserve the environment.

The two scientists will be invited to the White House to meet President Barack Obama and attend an awards ceremony.

Categories: Government, Politics, Science

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 29, 2011

Champaign Magnet Schools to Share $5 Million Federal Grant

Three magnet schools in Champaign's Unit 4 school district will split up more than $5 million dollars from the U.S. Department of Education.

The elementary schools, Garden Hills, Booker T. Washington, and Stratton will receive just over $1 million dollars each of the next three years, and part of will go for teaching specialists and a site coordinator. Unit 4 learned word of the grant late last week.

The schools had already started up modified versions of their magnet programs. Unit 4 grant writer Sue Schumacher says the district had already applied for the grant and was denied, but additional funds became available in the second year of a 3-year cycle. She says that doesn't happen often.

"We had a very competive grant, and it didn't get funded because they ran out of funds after the 36 applications that they accepted last year," said Schumacher. "So it's a relatively rare thing to get granted an off-cycle grant, but we're very thrilled."

Washington Elementary will use the funds to expand its STEM program, or science, technology, engineering and math initiative, while Garden Hills expands its international baccalaureate program with by visiting other nearby schools using the same lessons. And Stratton uses a Leadership in a MicroSociety model, in which students get real world experience, including electing leaders and starting careers.

Stratton Principal Stephanie Eckels says this year, the grant will boost the technology throughout the building.

"We want to really kind of vamp up our library so that the students have access to a lot of good media," she said. "We have smartboards in our 3rd, 4th and 5th grade classrooms. We also also received grants last year for laptops for all those students, so we hope to kind of fill in the gaps."

Likely the biggest investment for Stratton will be a full-scale TV and recording studio to boost their lessons. WILL assisted with the writing of Stratton's grant.

Garden Hills Principal Cheryl O'Leary says the funds will bring in proper science equipment for the school's lab, and staff development. But she says the funds will also help the students see other schools using the same theme.

"We'll be taking the kids on field trips to the theater districts in Chicago, to Indianapolis, to St. Louis, and working hand in hand with Krannert (the U of I's Krannert Center) to develop arts projects here in the school that will also go out in the community," said O'Leary. "Each grade level will have to work on a community service project as well now."

O'Leary says the school is also looking at using Skype to talk with classrooms around the country and abroad.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 28, 2011

Questions Loom Over PersonalCare Contract Termination

The news Tuesday that PersonalCare is terminating its contract with Christie Clinic leaves some unanswered questions for people who rely on PersonalCare for service.

Claudia Lennhoff heads the group, Champaign County Health Consumers. Lennhoff said her organization just renewed its employer group plan with PersonalCare.

"I don't know what kind of coverage PersonalCare will actually be offering us, so that we can access physician services," Lennhoff said. "So, It's a very distressing situation, and certainly if we had known that this was something that might happen, I really probably would not have renewed with PersonalCare.

In a statement, Christie Clinic said it will work with employers and their brokers who contract with PersonalCare to discuss their options.

Meanwhile, the University of Illinois said it is reviewing what the contract termination means for U of I employees and their dependents who are enrolled in the PersonalCare health plans, and if any decisions need to be made during the upcoming Special Healthcare Enrollment Period.

A request for comment from PersonalCare was not returned.

Categories: Education, Health

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 28, 2011

Federal Judge Limits Indiana Ban on Robo-Calls

Indiana's attorney general says he'll fight a federal judge's ruling limiting Indiana's ban on political robo-calls to in-state phone calls only.

U.S. District Judge William Lawrence in Indianapolis ruled that federal law pre-empts the Indiana's ban when it comes to interstate phone calls. The ruling says Indiana can still bar in-state robo-calls.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller said Wednesday he plans to appeal the ruling.

Patriotic Veterans Inc. filed a lawsuit last year saying the law violated the First Amendment and federal telecommunications laws. Lawrence did not rule on the constitutionality of the state measure in his decision Tuesday.

The ban allows Zoeller to seek fines of up to $5,000 for each violation. However political campaigns can still place robo-calls if a live operator obtains a person's permission first.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 28, 2011

Report: Planned Prison Closure Could Spur Crowding

The Illinois Department of Corrections says the planned closure of a central Illinois prison could mean 1,500 inmates would be housed in prison gyms.

The (Springfield) State Journal-Register (http://bit.ly/nPzzfO) reports the department detailed the scenario involving the medium-security Logan Correctional Center near Lincoln in a required report to the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. The closure also could mean crowding-related lawsuits.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has called the closure unavoidable given budget cuts by lawmakers. The union representing many of the affected prison workers says the move could endanger corrections workers and inmates.

Meanwhile, the Belleville News-Democrat (http://bit.ly/q62Vqk ) reports plans to close a maximum-security state mental-health center in Chester could require hundreds of thousands of dollars in upgrades at sites elsewhere to accommodate patients.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 28, 2011

U of I Finds More Law School Grade Problems

Two weeks after a University of Illinois law school dean was put on administrative leave for inaccurately reporting LSAT and GPA scores for the class of 2014, more discrepancies have been uncovered.

Based on an investigation, U of I officials have identified similar miscalculations for the classes of 2011 through 2013.

While the data discrepancies range from a tenth of a point to a single point from the actual scores, university spokesman Tom Hardy said it is still very serious.

"Those discrepancies appear small, but they are serious and important enough because it's important, it's essential to have integrity in the information that we provide," Hardy said.

In a statement, University President Michael Hogan called the data errors unacceptable, and he pledged to set up an independent monitor to help verify future data.

"The University, the campus and the College of Law place the highest priority on accuracy and integrity, and we will take measures to ensure that this never happens again," Hogan said.

The U of I said a final report on the investigation will be released. Meanwhile, College of Law admissions dean Paul Pless is still on administrative leave as a result of the inaccurate data for the class of 2014. Corrected data has since been posted for that class.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    ACTUAL REPORTED
CLASS OF 2011 LSAT 165 166
  GPA 3.6 3.6
CLASS 0F 2012 LSAT 165 166
  GPA 3.7 3.8
CLASS OF 2013 LSAT 167 167
  GPA 3.6 3.8
CLASS OF 2014 LSAT 163 168
  GPA 3.70 3.81

 

Categories: Education

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 28, 2011

Brain Scan Could Study Alzheimer’s Disease

MRI brain scans are commonly used to detect brain tumors or concussions in athletes. Now a similar scan is being tested to study Alzheimer's Disease.

An MRI shows the structure of the brain -- what it looks like. Whereas an fMRI is used to show how the brain functions. It can tell which areas of the brain are more active when you are at ease.

Researchers think the fMRI can be used to detect changes in this resting state which can indicate brain disorders such as depression, autism, and Alzheimer's.

"Before I have the symptoms, I could have an fMRI test," said Dr. Tom Ala, interim director for the Center for Alzheimer's Disease at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. "The fMRI test could say 'you are cool no problem', I'm not as worried. If the fMri test says the arrow is pointing in that direction because of this test, this biomarker, I could start treatment."

Patients cannot use this technology for Alzheimer's yet because it is still in the testing phase.

(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Categories: Health, Science, Technology

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 28, 2011

Ill. Teacher’s Retirement System Director Calls Fund Sustainable

The executive director of the Illinois Teachers Retirement System says the fund is underfunded by $44 billion, but it will provide benefits for the foreseeable future.

Director Dick Ingram said the legislature took notice during the last session and gave precedence to payments to pensions.

"We became a priority and I think as long as that continues and the statutory plan that's in effect now is followed we will, in fact, be strong for the long term," Ingram said.

Ingram said the fund's total liability is $81 billion. He said the legislature's plan would put the fund at 90 percent of full funding by 2045.

Ingram also noted that while investment returns can vary last year the fund's return was about 24 percent.

Ingram added a senate bill would offer a third option for teachers to invest their retirement funds. State senate bill 512 would create a third tier for a defined-contribution plan that would resemble of 401-(K) plan. The benefits would depend on the amount invested and the return on investment.

He said the bill would also change the contributions for current teachers. Those in Tier I would see their contributions increase from 9.4% to 13.77% of their pay. Those in Tier II would see their contributions drop from 9.4 percent to 6 percent of their pay.

Ingram held an informational meeting for teachers in Macomb.


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