Illinois Senate OKs Health Insurance Parity for Substance Abuse Treatment

IADDA CEO Sara Moscato Howe

(Springfield, IL) – May 27, 2011. The Illinois Senate yesterday approved, 49-08, legislation which will ensure that all health insurance policies sold in Illinois will cover substance abuse treatment, mental health care and other disorders without gouging consumers for this coverage.

“This landmark legislation will ensure that those who purchase health insurance in our state will now be able to seek medical attention for mental, emotional, and substance abuse treatment without having to pay for it out of pocket,” stated State Senator William Delgado (D-Chicago), Chairman of the Senate Public Health Committee, the chief sponsor of the measure in the Senate.

The legislation, House Bill 1530, requires that every insurer that issues health insurance in this State provides coverage for the treatment of mental, emotional, nervous, or substance use disorders.

Most importantly, the bill prohibits insurance companies from charging exorbitant fees for these services or  requiring consumers to pay a separate fee for the coverage of these services, according to Delgado.

“This is a momentous day for the people of Illinois,” stated Delgado.  “This is the first time in our history that we are telling insurance companies that they may not discriminate against those with mental, emotional, nervous or drug related disorders.”

“With the passage of this legislation, employers will see decreased health care costs and increased worker productivity.” said Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association CEO Sara Moscato Howe. “Additionally, across Illinois, we will see a reduction in accidents, absenteeism and crime while building healthy parents and families.”

Research shows that patients that have completed substance use disorder treatment have been shown to reduce emergency room visits by 39%, hospital stays by 35% and total medical costs by 26%, according to Howe.

The bill is being sponsored in the Illinois House by House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie).

“This legislation is an important step toward bringing health insurance parity to addiction health care,” said Lang.

This legislation now returns to the Illinois House to concur with the Senate’s Amendment.

As Illinois Deadbeat Status Persists, Topinka Says “No” to Senator Sullivan Plan to Pay State Bills

(Springfield, IL) — For the upcoming year, Illinois lawmakers are weighing whether to pay bills with borrowed money or not pay businesses and local government money the state owes them.

Democrats are pushing the plan to borrow $6.2 billion in order to pay some of Illinois’ $8.2 billion in past-due bills.

Republicans say lawmakers have to stop borrowing and start cutting spending if Illinois is ever going to pay its bills and live within its means.

Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, who actually writes the checks for the state’s bills, said spending money now is not the solution.

“The basic restructuring has not been done; the cuts have not been made. The budget has not been brought back in line, which has to be basically flat,” said Topinka.

Topinka said Illinois is still spending more than it is taking in. She did not offer an amount to be cut from the budget, but she did say the $7 billion in revenue from the largest income tax increase in the state’s history, has been committed.


Rutherford Says “No” to Paying Delinquent Illinois Bills with New Bond Borrowing

(Springfield, IL) — Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford on Monday said he cannot support adding to Illinois burgeoning debt.

The first-term Republican treasurer released his own report that states Illinois total debt would cost every household in the state $42,000. Rutherford arrived at the number by adding Illinois’ $140 billion in unfunded pension and health-care liabilities, the state’s $45 billion bond debt, and the nearly $8 billion in unpaid bills.

Rutherford said lawmakers must cut spending and live within their means in order for Illinois to pay off the debt.

“You can’t borrow anymore money,” said Rutherford. “And if I need to send letters to the rating companies to tell them the treasurer of Illinois is opposed to any more borrowing, I’ll go ahead and do that.”

Rutherford said alerting national rating agencies and bond houses could make it more expensive for Illinois to borrow. He said hopes that step would give lawmakers pause before asking for a billion dollars.

And while the state’s treasurer can only stop short-term borrowing, lawmakers are maneuvering to pass a measure through the General Assembly that would bypass any authority Rutherford has.


Illinois Lawmakers Reprioritize Gov. Pat Quinn’s Illinois Human Services Budget

(Springfield, IL) — Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar may have different political views, but Quinn is dealing with a similar, but bigger, challenge than Edgar tackled during his tenure as governor.

Edgar faced a nearly $2 billion deficit in 1991. Quinn assumed office in 2009, inheriting a more than $13 billion deficit. Edgar left office in 1999 with a $1.5 billion surplus, crediting his success to raising the temporary tax which later became permanent, cutting state spending and saying “no” to new programs.

“That took time, and it took discipline,” Edgar said. “The governor, I think, has to provide that leadership. It’s hard for the legislature to do that.”

Quinn’s administration isn’t hoping for a budget surplus, but is expecting fiscal stability following proposed spending reductions and recent personal and corporate income tax increases.

Quinn’s proposed $35.4 billion spending plan for fiscal year 2012 aggressively slashes the overall human services budget by about $412 million, or 11 percent, one of the deepest reductions compared to other areas. For instance, the state’s transportation budget saw a 86 percent reduction, or $67 million, according to Quinn’s proposed agency funding figures.

However, other departments saw state funding increases, including:


Illinois Lawmakers Restore Illinois Substance Abuse Prevention, Treatment Funding

IADDA CEO Sara Moscato Howe

(Springfield, IL) — Both the Illinois House and Senate last week approved human services budgets for next year that virtually restored and, in the senate version, fully restored drug prevention and treatment funding that Governor Pat Quinn had proposed eliminating in his original budget plan.

The House Human Services budget, HB 3717, which passed 83-25, reduces Illinois addiction treatment funding 4.4%, lowering most line items by 1%, and cuts prevention services by 20%, slicing the main line item by 1%.

House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), who spoke to the chamber after the vote, noted that this is the first time since 1991 that the House has passed a budget composed of multiple bills and in which the process was spearheaded by the five House appropriations committees.

Madigan also praised the bi-partisan effort, thanking the Republicans for working together to design the budget.

“The Speaker noted, however, that the work is not yet done,” said Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association CEO Sara Moscato Howe. “There will still be negotiations with the Senate over their version of next year’s budget.”

On the heels of the House passing its human services budget—and not to be outdone by the lower chamber—State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) released a new amendment, SA 4, to the senate’s human services budget, SB 2450, that dramatically improved Steans’ original proposal, which had restored only 50% of the Governor’s funding elimination.

Steans’ new proposal fully restored funding for addiction prevention and treatment to last year’s budget level with some minor increases in the prevention, meth awareness, addiction treatment services, and DCFS line items. The full Senate approved the revised plan 32-24.

“Clearly this is a major victory in our fight to secure adequate funding for addiction services,” said Howe.

The IADDA chief executive noted, however, that the Illinois budget for next year remains a work in progress.

“Both chambers still need to reconcile their different budget proposals before a final package can be sent to Governor Quinn for his consideration,” said Howe. “And the governor could veto budget lines that fail to meet his approval.”

“Yet, it is important that we take time to thank lawmakers, like Senator Steans and State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, for their work on behalf of addiction health care during a difficult budget year.”

The legislature is scheduled to adjourn on May 31.

Illinois House Version of Illinois Budget Speeds to Conclusion

(Springfield, IL) — Illinois Budget plans in the Illinois House for higher education, public safety and general services are headed for full debate this week, while agreements on elementary and high school education and human services are close to a resolution.

“The House will have the budget done by next week,” state Rep. Luis Arroyo, D-Chicago, said.

The chamber set last Friday as the informal deadline to finalize detailed numbers for its estimated $33.2 billion total budget for next fiscal year.

State Rep. Kenneth Dunkin, D-Chicago, who heads the budget committee on higher education, said his group made it under the House’s higher education budget goal of $2.1 billion by targeting for-profit schools through the state’s monetary award program, or MAP.


Our View: Senator Heather Steans’ Proposal to Cut Drug Treatment Budget 50%, Eliminating Care for 35,000, Is Misguided

State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago)

WHILE we recognize the State of Illinois continues to confront daunting budget deficits and the Illinois Senate Democratic caucus’ willingness to cuts its caucus budget 5% from last year is welcome, the proposal offered this week by State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) to cut state drug treatment funding by 50% and drug prevention by 100% is entirely misguided.

The Illinois General Assembly has bludgeoned and slashed the Illinois Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse budget for last several years, reducing the number of men, women, and children in treatment from 84,167 in fiscal year 2007 to only 70,378 in 2009.

The 50% reduction proposed by Steans, the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee for human services, means the number of people in addiction treatment services would drop precipitously to 35,189, causing the unemployment of 750 treatment staff under this scenario.

The 100% elimination of addiction prevention would deny service to 229,536 youth statewide and push 350 prevention staff out of jobs.

Meanwhile, Steans is proposing increased spending in other parts of the Illinois human services budget.

“State Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, said that chamber most likely will be increasing funds for community care programs and keeping child care funding level,” according to a report in the Illinois Statehouse News on May 4.

Of course, we believe community care and child-care program are also important human service programs. However, Steans’ plan to increase spending for some programs while slashing funding by 50% for critical addiction health care services that save the state $7 for every $1 spent on treatment is imprudent and ill-advised.

Fortunately, State Senators William Delgado (D-Chicago) and State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) recognize the value of substance abuse prevention and treatment services and oppose the proposed cuts.

Upon further review, we hope Senator Steans and other senators will too recognize the vital role addiction health care service plays in the Illinois health care system and propose a budget that equalizes necessary sacrifices.

SEUI Healthcare Launches TV, Radio Ads to Fight Illinois Budget Cuts

(Springfield, IL) —  The Services Employees International Union for Healthcare in Illinois and Indiana has been placing television and radio advertisements throughout the state, hoping to deter lawmakers from cutting dollars for child care and home care services for the elderly.

“These ads are really about educating the public and educating lawmakers about the importance of these programs and the critical role that they play in providing family support and care for tens of thousands of Illinois families,” said Brynn Seibert, spokeswoman for SEIU Healthcare.

In a recently released SEIU radio advertisement, the organization features a participant of the Illinois Home Service Program saying that even if funding disappears, his disability won’t. In a TV spot, a working couple from Joliet talks about the need for the state’s child care assistance program. The advertisement ends by urging viewers to tell state legislators to avoid cuts to child care.

David Morrison, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, said advocacy groups typically create media campaigns to encourage the public to lobby their lawmakers.

“(But) because it’s so removed from the outcomes, groups are usually reluctant to take that kind of effort, to put those resources in that kind of effort, when it’s much more direct for them to send their lobbyists over to talk to a public official,” Morrison said.