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State Legislative Update



Summer 2020  |  Issue 44

State Legislative Update
By:  Betsy D. Mitchell, MPA
IPS Legislative Consultant
 

The Condensed Session:

The Illinois General Assembly returned to Springfield on May 20, 2020 for the unique four-day COVID-19 Special Session limited to only seven issues listed below. For the first time since March 5, legislators met in person in Springfield. Prior to the Special Session, legislators had been meeting virtually in newly assigned working groups that were centered on several pending issues related to difficulties associated with COVID. No voting took place in these working groups; instead, they provided recommendations to the entire body.

In light of the pandemic, special precautions were implemented during the Special Session, as outlined by the Illinois Department of Public Health. The Senate met in the Senate Chambers at the Capitol, but individual Senators could only come to the Senate Floor when needing to speak on an issue and to vote, and no more than 10 legislators were allowed to be on the floor at the same time. The House of Representatives rented the Bank of Springfield Convention Center a few blocks away and requested a set-up that included 118 desks set six feet apart equipped with voting buttons, limited public and lobbyist access, and masks to be worn at all times. In addition, no legislator was to have direct contact with anyone when not in session, and to test and quarantine themselves for seven days following session.  

The following seven issues were addressed during the Special Session:

  1. COVID-19 pandemic or other disasters
  2. State Budget and its implementation
  3. Economic recovery, infrastructure projects, and funding
  4. The explanation, arguments for and against, and the form for constitutional amendments, as required  by the Illinois Constitution Amendment Act
  5. Laws or authority scheduled to be repealed prior to June 1, 2021
  6. The General Election and State Board of Elections
  7. The Hospital Assessment Program

While the legislature did pass a spending plan for Fiscal Year 2021, which is always a top priority, many concerns remain over if the budget is balanced. This concern is due to the uncertainty associated with the State’s revenue. Fallout from COVID-19, including business closures, increased unemployment, and changes in consumer spending, make it difficult to predict how much money the State will collect from taxes and fees. Adding to the uncertainty are unanswered questions such as if the federal government will loan Illinois $5 Billion and if the Governor’s Fair Tax passed during the next election in November. Everyone anticipates that legislators may need to make budget adjustments during the fall session.

Clearly, the final four days of this special session were like no other session in Illinois’ history as strict health guidelines were followed in order to minimize COVID-19 exposure. In addition, the House and Senate met in separate buildings, and there was little to no public input, but legislation was passed and some even in a bi-partisan manner. Overall, most were pleased with the end of results of this session.
 

IPS Legislative Highlights:

Telehealth:
In January, at IPS’s request, Senator Laura Fine (D-Glenview) introduced Senate Bill 2561. Then, in early March, COVID-19 moved into our lives and nearly everyone became restricted to our homes in an effort to curb its spread. Physicians could no longer meet with mental health patients in their offices. At the urging of IPS and other organizations, Governor J.B. Pritzker issued Executive Oder #9 (EO #9) to allow for telehealth coverage. The Executive Order allowed psychiatrists to immediately begin meeting with patients in need of mental health care through telehealth. Clearly this EO benefited patients in need of mental health services, but it also highlighted telehealth’s numerous benefits.  

In mid-April, because the Illinois General Assembly could not meet in Springfield due to COVID and because no plan exists allowing votes to be conducted remotely, the legislature formed several working groups centered around several issues. Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) invited IPS President Dr. Susan Scherer to make a presentation before the Senate Healthcare and Human Services Working Group. This went well, and the workgroup thanked Dr. Scherer for her contribution.

In May, Illinois began working through the five phases provided in the RESTORE ILLINOIS plan to open our state again. Because EO #9 is tied to the Governor’s Stay at Home Order, concern developed over what could happen to telehealth coverage when the Stay at Home Order is rescinded.

On May 20, the Illinois General Assembly began meeting in Springfield for a very streamlined Special Session. Numerous negotiating sessions took place and several possible amendments were offered. During the final hours of the condensed Special Session, two bills emerged for consideration: one from healthcare industry to codify telehealth coverage as expanded under EO #9, and another by insurance industry to return to limited coverage, as it was before the pandemic. In the House, Representative Deborah Conroy (D-Villa Park) presented amendments to Senate Bill 671 to provide for telehealth coverage, but the Senate did not support this version. Instead, the Senate offered amendments to House Bill 823 regarding telehealth, but IPS, ISMS nor IHA could not support the amendments, so they were never attached to the bill. One of the main amendments contained our original language from SB 2561, which we supported and are grateful to Senator Fine for introducing, but also contained language allowing the insurance industry too much control over who needs telehealth services. A procedural mishap occurred, in addition to strong opposition, causing telehealth amendments to not be adopted onto the bill and passed in the Senate.

Upon adjournment, no bills providing for telehealth were passed in the 2020 Spring Special Legislative Session. The Governor has indicated he will extend the provisions in Executive Order #9 (see below for link) and so far that is exactly what he has been doing. Clearly this issue has not been resolved and could be considered during the fall session.

Medicaid Reimbursement and Hospital Assessment Signed into Law:
In early July, Governor Pritzker signed House Bill 2541 (Harris, D-Chicago), now Public Act 101-0650, which includes an additional $150 million in funding to increase physician Medicaid reimbursements. This boost is expected to result in an increase in the Medicaid Physician Fee Schedule.

The legislation also includes a new Hospital Assessment Program that will bring in over $250 million additional federal dollars into the state, consisting of $450 million in additional funding for hospitals since the last assessment four years ago. The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services worked with the General Assembly and stakeholders to distribute funding in a manner that increased funding to all hospitals in Illinois, while prioritizing hospitals that serve a high number of Medicaid patients. Also included in this bill is a healthcare omnibus package covering a variety of issues, including the requirement that the Illinois Department of Insurance and HFS study how state government can help people who lack health insurance.

This bill passed the General Assembly during the fast and furious Special Session at the end of May.

Legislation Introduced Before COVID:
So what happened to all of those bills that were introduced at the beginning of session (i.e. creating a psychologist statewide board, expanding prescribing psychologists prescription authority, etc.) The only bills considered during the Special Session that pertained to IPS were bills on telehealth and the budget. No additional legislative action was taken on any of the other bills Illinois IPS was supporting, opposing, or monitoring since January. Technically, most of these bills are viable and some of these bills could be acted on during the fall legislative session beginning on November 17. IPS will be monitoring closely.

 

The Budget Plan:

Senate Bill 264 (Harmon, D-Oak Park – Harris, D-Chicago) — this bill contains the $42.8 billion budget which was approved in the final hours of the spring session on partisan roll call vote.

Senate Bill 2099 (Harmon, D-Oak Park – Zalewski, D-Riverside) — this bill grants authority to the Governor (with the approval of the Comptroller and Treasurer) to borrow up to $5 billion from the Federal Reserve in order to help fund the budget. This bill has been sent to the Governor and is expected to be approved.

House Bill 357 (Harris, D-Chicago – Harmon, D-Oak Park) — this bill contains the budget implementation (BIMP) which makes changes to the statutes that are necessary to implement the 2021 budget which begins on July 1, 2020. This bill is expected to be approved by the Governor soon.

 

Governor’s Telehealth Order:

Executive Order 2020-09 (HTML)  (English)  (Spanish) — On April, 19, 2020, Governor Pritzker issued Executive Order #9 to require all health insurers regulated by the Department of Insurance 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. To date, this EO continues to be extended. Stay tuned for additional information.

 

Veto Session:

The dates for the annual fall legislative session have been scheduled for November 17-19 and December 1-3, 2020. Several factors will determine the fall session’s agenda: status of COVID, status of the budget, if the Fair Tax passes in November election, how well the state reopens, if further guidelines are needed, if the federal government loans Illinois $5 billion, and or any additional crisis. As always stay tuned and never, ever hesitate to contact IPS for additional information.

 

Please Help!

It is clear that prescribing psychologists plan to seek legislation to create a new special statewide board through IDFPR and to expand their prescribing authority to include children and seniors.

IPS needs your help in reaching out to your legislators to urge them to oppose creating a prescribing psychologists board through the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulations. The creation of new board would be very costly to an already cash-strapped state. During his Budget Address last February, Governor Pritzker stated he opposed the creation of any boards for this reason. In addition, there are so few prescribing psychologists that it is doubtful they could reach a quorum.

Further, urge your legislators to oppose allowing prescribing psychologists to prescribe to children and senior citizens. The vulnerability of these two special populations has been especially highlighted during COVID.

For more information on these issues and/or assistance with meeting your legislators, please contact IPS.

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