Senator Steans

May 23, 2018

Dear Friends,

 

Senator Steans on the Seante floorAs we close in on the final week and a half of the legislative session, I want to provide you with a brief update on what I have been working on.

 

Over the past few weeks, the Senate approved my measures to ban “patient brokering” and my legislation to address the shortage of mental health professionals. I have also been working to protect patients from mid-year health insurance changes and to encourage individuals to enroll in comprehensive health insurance plans rather than stay in short-term plans. You can read more about these measures below.

 

Beyond the bills I have sponsored, my primary focus has been negotiating the budget. As chair of the Senate Appropriations I Committee and vice chair of the Senate Appropriations II Committee, we’ve conducted more than 20 public budget hearings to assess the governor’s budget request and agency needs.

 

Illinois faces a number of new budget pressures this year:

• Gov. Bruce Rauner spent $1 billion more than lawmakers appropriated last year.

• We need to increase school funding by $350 million this year under the new evidence-based model.

• The state’s pension payment this year is about $575 million.

• Medicaid expenditures will increase as the federal government spends less.

• We need to pay the bond we used to pay down the state’s backlog of bills.

 

To cover some of these expenses, the governor proposed shifting pension costs to local school districts and universities and cutting funding to towns and cities. This could force many communities to raise property taxes. We are actively working to craft a reasonable budget that does not raise property taxes.

 

I am keenly aware of the devastation the budget impasse caused and have been working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate to negotiate a full-year budget.

 

Things will move quickly in the next week and a half. Please do not hesitate to contact my office at 773-769-1717 or reach out online with any questions or concerns. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter to stay updated on my legislation and what’s happening in the district.

 

Sincerely,
Heather Steans
Senator Heather Steans
7th District – Illinois

 

 

 

Cracking down on health care fraud and ‘patient brokering’

 

“Patient brokering” by companies that use misleading advertising to lure Illinois patients into addiction and mental health treatment at out-of-state facilities would be banned under a measure I sponsored.

 

Patient brokers prey on individuals and families when they are vulnerable and struggling with mental health issues or addiction. These individuals have made the difficult decision to seek treatment, only to find they have been enrolled in a facility in Florida or another state.

 

Out-of-state facilities do not always accept Illinois insurance and may not be accredited. House Bill 4949 would require these marketers to clearly display the address of the facility they are advertising and whether it is licensed in Illinois, as well as which services are covered by insurance.

 

 

Tackling the statewide mental health professional shortage

 

Senator Steans on the Senate floorLast week the Illinois Senate approved two measures I sponsored to address the statewide shortage of mental health professionals.

 

We are woefully understaffed and need to retain and recruit more mental health professionals to work in Illinois. In 80 percent of the state, people can’t easily access the counseling and treatment services they and their families desperately need.

 

House Bill 5109 creates a loan repayment assistance program for mental health professionals practicing in underserved or designated mental health professional shortage areas. To be eligible for the program, an applicant must work at least 12 consecutive months in the designated area and have an outstanding educational loan balance. The amount of the grant would vary based on the applicant’s degree.

 

The Senate also approved House Bill 5111, which would create the Behavioral Health Workforce Education Center Task Force to study Illinois’ shortage of mental health professionals. The task force would submit a report of its findings to the General Assembly by the end of the summer.

 

 

Supporting patients

 

I do not believe insurance companies should be able to change prescription coverage for patients mid-year when they are stable on a prescribed medication and unable to change plans.

 

I sponsored House Bill 4146 to prohibit insurance companies from increasing the out-of-pocket cost for prescribed drugs during the plan year. This legislation would also prohibit companies from moving a drug to a more restrictive tier or denying a patient coverage during the plan year.

 

I hope this legislation helps patients better manage their conditions and choose insurance plans that meet their needs. It is currently under review in the Senate Special Committee on Oversight of Medicaid Managed Care.

 

 

Protecting consumers and the insurance exchange

 

Senator Steans in a committee hearingI sponsored a measure to encourage people to enroll in comprehensive health insurance rather than remaining on a short-term plan.

 

The measure would limit short-term coverage to 90 days within a year, as the Obama administration did in 2016. President Trump has proposed reversing this ruling and allowing individuals to stay on short-term, limited-duration insurance plans for a year. This would drive up the cost for everyone on the exchange.

 

Short-term, limited-duration insurance plans are exempt from many of the Affordable Care Act’s mandates and often provide less coverage to consumers, leaving patients with expensive medical bills. House Bill 2624 would require short-term policies to include a warning message to consumers that the plan might not cover all medical bills.

 

This measure is currently on the order of second reading.

 

 

 

District Office

5533 N. Broadway • Chicago, IL 60640

773-769-1717 (Phone) • 773-769-6901 (Fax)

 

Springfield Office

623 Capitol Building • Springfield, IL 62706

217-782-8492 (Phone)

 

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Contact Us

District Office
5533 N. Broadway
Chicago, IL 60640
Office: 773-769-1717
Fax: 773-769-6901

Springfield Office
623 Capitol Building
301 S. Second St.
Springfield, IL 62706
Office: 217-782-8492