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State Legislative Update

Spring 2020  |  Issue 43

State Legislative Update
By:  Betsy D. Mitchell, MPA
IPS Legislative Consultant
Typically, the Legislative Update at this time of the year would include a highlight and status of the legislation IPS was either supporting, opposing or monitoring.  The Illinois General Assembly has not met in Springfield since March 5, 2020.  In early March, at least one person at the Capitol tested positive for COVID-19.  Currently, no provisions allowing Illinois legislators to vote remotely are in place.
Instead of holding committee hearings, in mid-April legislators began meeting in newly formed working groups in the Senate and House; each centered around major issues (healthcare, housing, the budget).  Although the working groups meet virtually and without public or media participation, IPS is working to keep abreast of all developments within the groups the best we can under the current circumstances.
Prior to Governor Pritzker’s “stay at home” order in mid-March, IPS had strong concerns over two newly introduced bills:
Senate Bill 3773/Senate President Don Harmon (D, Oak Park) — Creates the Prescribing Psychologist Licensing and Disciplinary Board to serve in an advisory capacity in matters relating to the licensure and discipline of prescribing psychologists. Removes provisions allowing the Clinical Psychologists Licensing and Disciplinary Board to make recommendations relating to the licensure and discipline of prescribing psychologists. IPS strongly opposes this bill. There are only a few licensed prescribing psychologists in Illinois which is far from enough to warrant their own board.  In addition, Governor Pritzker announced publicly that he would not allow for the creation of any new boards this year due to the high costs associated with creating and maintaining Boards.  Currenlty, this bill is in the Senate Executive Committee where no legislative action has taken place on this bill since March 12, 2020 due to COVID-19.
House Bill 4578/Rep. Anna Moeller (D, Elgin) — This bill would allow prescribing psychologists to prescribe to children and senior citizens with no additional medical education or training.  Treatment of mental illness in older adults is so complex that the American Board of Medical Specialties recognizes Geriatric Psychiatry as a unique medical subspecialty requiring the completion of a year of post-medical residency fellowship training. Medical training is necessary to recognize, diagnose, and formulate a treatment plan for older adults with mental illness.  This bill has been assigned to the House Health Care Licenses Committee, chaired by Rep. Moeller.  During COVID-19, no action has taken place on this bill since March 12, 2020.
IPS and APA strongly oppose both of these bills.  At this time, no dates have been provided for when the Illinois General Assembly may return to Springfield.  What has been made clear is that when they do return, the legislature will only consider a very streamlined legislative agenda (budget, hospital assessment and COVID related legislation).  We remain hopeful that the legislature will not take action on either of these bills.
During the early part of the legislative session, the Illinois Psychiatric Society requested Senator Fine (D, Glenview) introduce Senate Bill 2561 to require commercial insurance to cover Telehealth services at the same rate of in-person visits.  Early in the session the bill was negotiated successfully with the opponents led by IPS’ immediate past president Dr. Hossam Mahmoud and incoming President Dr. Susan Scherer during the IPS Advocacy Day in Springfield.  Dr. Mahmoud testified before the Senate Insurance Committee where it was passed out of committee and moved to Second Reading. 
A few days later, the legislature curtailed legislative action until further notice due to COVID-19.  Quickly, IPS joined with other mental health providers to urge the Governor to enact an Executive Order to expand Telehealth Services in Illinois as soon as possible.  On March 19, 2020, Governor Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-09:
  • Executive Order Number 9:  TELEHEALTH — All health insurers regulated by the                        Department of Insurance are required to cover Telehealth services and reimburse providers at the same rate as in-person visits and are prohibited from imposing any cost-sharing for in-network providers.
          Executive Order 2020-09 (HTML)
On March 4, 2020 nearly 50 IPS members and students traveled to Springfield for the 2020 IPS Advocacy Day.  By all standards, this was an extremely successful day.  Everyone was able to met and talk with legislators.  We were able to meet with legislative leaders from all four caucuses and discuss our vital issues before the Illinois General Assembly. 
Most importantly, during the Advocacy Day, IPS successfully negotiated the agreement to SB 2561/Fine, to allow commercial insurance coverage of mental health Telehealth services be billed at the same rate as in-person visits.
Dr. Mahmoud, along with the support of the IPS members, negotiated with the opponents of the bill including Senators and the insurance companies.  Late in the day, he testified before the House Insurance. Committee and the IPS Advocacy Day attendees.  The vote was unanimous in House Insurance Committee (16-0) so the bill passed out of committee, allowing it to move to Second Reading. Then COVID-19 caused the legislature to stay home, but highlighted the urgent need for Telehealth.  The positive legislative action on Senate Bill 2561 served to convince the Governor to issue Executive Order #9 on March 19, 2020 (Executive Order 2020-09 (HTML)).
IPS was one of the fortunate organizations to be able to convene an advocacy day this year before COVID-19 struck our state and country.  Who knows what the future of advocacy days will look like?  Will they be entirely virtual, will the public ever feel safe in retuning to the Capitol?  One thing is for certain, advocating for and against issues will forever be a vital exercise of our first amendment:  the right to petition government.  In addition, COVID-19 has further highlighted the necessity for quality mental health services.  IPS encourages you take part in this critical activity and be a strong advocate for mental health.  Contact IPS for more information on how to get started.
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