State Legislative Update
Winter 2020 | Issue 45
State Legislative Update
By: Betsy D. Mitchell, MPA
IPS Legislative Consultant
Telehealth — A Review 0f 2020
This is not good-bye, but a “Until We Meet Again” Message
- In January, at IPS’ request, Senator Laura Fine (D-Glenview) introduced Senate Bill 2561(Full Text).
- In February, during the IPS Advocacy Day and hours before the Senate Insurance Committee was scheduled to consider our legislation, IPS negotiated with the Insurance Industry and reached a compromise. IPS’ then-President Hossam Mahmoud testified at the hearing where the bill passed unanimously and moved to Second Reading.
- In March, COVID-19 restricted Illinoisans to our homes. Psychiatrists 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 to allow for Telehealth coverage. This permitted psychiatrists to immediately begin meeting with patients. 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 existed allowing votes to be conducted remotely, the legislature formed several working groups centered around several issues. IPS’ President Dr. Susan Scherer was invited to testify before the Senate Healthcare and Human Services Working Group.
- 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Governor’s Stay at Home Order, concern developed over what could occur with Telehealth when the Stay at Home Order is rescinded. A push for legislation during the final days of the abbreviated legislative session began from “our” side. At the same time the Insurance Industry also began working on legislation to return payment for Telehealth services to pre-COVID days, which was very limited.
- On May 20, the legislators began meeting in Springfield for a streamlined Special Session. Numerous negotiating sessions took place and several possible amendments were offered to a telehealth legislation. During the final hours of session, two bills emerged for consideration.
- Representative Conroy (D-Villa Park) presented amendments to Senate Bill 671 (Engrossed) to provide for Telehealth, but the Senate did not support this version. SB671 passed in the House but was never considered in the Senate. In the Senate, amendments were offered to House Bill 823 regarding Telehealth, but IPS, ISMS nor IHA could not support them, so the amendments were never attached to the bill (in case you look up the bill). One of the main amendments contained our original language from SB 2561 (our bill; Full Text), which we supported and are grateful to Senator Fine for including, but it 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 on Telehealth were passed in the 2020 Spring Legislative Session. The Governor has indicated he will extend the provisions in Executive Order #9. Clearly this issue has not been resolved and could be considered during the fall session.
- In June and July, IPS continued to urge the Governor to extend the EO#9 extending Telehealth.
- In August, IPS and ISMS were invited to meet with Insurance Committee Chairs, Senator Harris (D-Harvey) and Representative Jones (D-Chicago) to begin discussing what a Telehealth bill should look like.
- In September and November, the Black Caucus began hearings on health care equity including Telehealth. Several IPS members testified at the hearings. Also, IPS increased involvement with Telehealth Coalition, which includes at least 25 other organizations.
- In December, the Telehealth Coalition is drafting Telehealth comprehensive legislation for review and introduction in January/February 2021. IPS expects a major battle next Spring. Look out for our upcoming membership survey on telehealth. We are also seeking personal stories of the impact of Telehealth on patients.
I have accepted an unexpected offer to become the Senior Advisor for Governmental Affairs for the Illinois Realtors. It is with mixed emotions that I leave IPS. I have enjoyed every moment of working for IPS. Each member I encountered was always professional and nothing but nice to me, which I appreciated. Most of all, I was honored to represent the Illinois Psychiatric Society. Because IPS is involved in numerous issues, it was exciting and vital work. Thank you for selecting me to be a part of it. IPS is already working to find a new lobbyist and I have pledged to make this a smooth transition. I hope to see everyone during your next in-person advocacy day. Keep in touch.