News Around Illinois - February 19, 2020

 
Reginald Hardwick/Illinois Newsroom

Ex-Gov. Blagojevich Released From Prison After Trump Pardon

CHICAGO  — Forrmer Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is out of prison hours after his sentence for political corruption was commuted by President Donald Trump. Reporters and onlookers were on hand Tuesday as the now silver-haired Blagojevich left the gates of the Federal Corrections Institution Englewood south of Denver. Blagojevich served more than eight years of a 14-year sentence for crimes that included seeking to sell an appointment to Barack Obama’s former Senate seat and trying to shake down a children’s hospital. The president said the punishment imposed on the Democrat and one-time contestant on Trump's reality TV show "Celebrity Apprentice" was excessive. - Associated Press

New Tool Will Help Farmers Calculate Crop Insurance

URBANA - Farmers must make decisions about crop insurance over the next few weeks, and a new tool from the University of Illinois can help. The crop insurance calculator allows farmers to enter their state, county, crop, and other farm information, and it spits out different premiums. It was created by teams at the University of Illinois and farmdoc daily. Gary Schnitkey is a professor at the U of I and helped develop the calculator. He says crop insurance is important, especially in these uncertain times. Schnitkey says premiums this year are generally lower than last year. The decision deadline for farmers is March 15. Click here to access the tool. - Dana Cronin, Illinois Newsroom

Lawmakers Want To Reduce Delays In Medical Care

SPRINGFIELD - Illinois lawmakers are considering legislation intended to reduce the amount of time it takes insurance companies to approve medical care. Backers say the process, known as “prior authorization,” is time-consuming and raises unnecessary obstacles for people in need. Isabella McKenna was just 14 years old when she was diagnosed with arthritis. She says prior authorization only made her condition harder to deal with. “My father had to make countless phone calls," said McKenna. "My doctor had to take the time to give them reason after reason why I needed this test, and in the end, they, the insurance company, not my doctor, decided it was unnecessary.” Supporters of the legislation say reducing prior authorization would save money and allow medical providers to focus on people rather than paperwork. Insurance-industry representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment. - Mike Smith, NPR Illinois

Groups: Laws, Courtroom Changes Hit Police Training Budget

SPRINGFIELD — Two Illinois law enforcement groups say training for police officers is suffering because of an unexpected shortfall in state funding. The Illinois Sheriffs' Association and the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police are asking lawmakers to fill a $5 million gap in the budget of the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board. The board finances local training with traffic fines. But a state law last year changed the allocation of the money. Another new law allows judges to waive traffic fines and the police groups believe there are fewer citations being written. - Associated Press

SIU Medical School To Pilot State Prison Health Care

SPRINGFIELD — Southern Illinois University School of Medicine will provide health care for inmates at two prisons in a test which the school hopes can expand. Dean and provost Jerry Kruse said Monday the $5 million pilot project with the Illinois Department of Corrections is in keeping with the school's mission of universally adequate health care as well as a chance for economic expansion. It's unclear how the plan will affect inmate health services provided by Wexford Health Sources. The Pittsburgh-based Wexford has been criticized for staff shortages and inadequate care. Its 10-year, $1.4 billion contract expires next year. - Associated Press

Story source: Illinois Newsroom