Gov. Pat Quinn’s Approval of Substance Abuse Treatment Parity Bill Cheers Backers

Gov. Pat Quinn

(Springfield, IL) – Governor Pat Quinn last week signed legislation that 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 type of insurance coverage, heartening parity supporters.

The legislation, House Bill 1530, sponsored by State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) and State Senator Willie Delgado (D-Chicago), prevents insurers from imposing additional barriers within the policy – such as financial requirements, treatment limitations, lifetime limits or annual limits – to treatments for mental, emotional, nervous and substance abuse disorders if no such stipulations exist for other health conditions.

“When we talk about access to health care, we want to make sure that we are including all types of care,” Quinn said. “No one should be forced to forgo critical mental health care because of where they live or because their insurance charges more for the necessary treatment.”

“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 Delgado (D-Chicago), Chairman of the Senate Public Health Committee, the chief sponsor of the measure in the Senate.

Additionally, 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 governor’s approval of this law, 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.

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

The new Illinois new law exceeds the requirements of the recently-enacted federal mental health parity law, according to Lang.

“Federal enforcement is a more remote, lighter touch, relying on telephone calls and mail,” said Lang (D-Skokie). “By matching state law to the federal standards, the Illinois Insurance Department can enforce the federal standards more aggressively than the federal government could by virtue of state face-to-face enforcement activities.”

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.

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.

Rep. Sara Feigenholtz Says House Appropriation Panel Poised to Act on Illinois Human Services Budget

(Springfield, IL) — April 28, 2011. Illinois lawmakers returned to the Capitol Tuesday to a fast approaching deadline for getting the next year’s Illinois budget passed. The House is expected to start voting on individual budget proposals by the end of next week.

House committees have been holding hearings since January to determine which agencies and programs will be getting cut for the state to fit under the $23.8 billion spending budget. Total House numbers tallies in at $33.2 billion, which also includes funding for pension and debt payments.

State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, who’s heads the committee that is divvying up funds for human services, calls the task of budgeting with shrinking numbers daunting.

“I am still fighting with my leadership. I’m trying to do a little pushback here with what we’re actually realistically able to do,” said Feigenholtz.

Unlike in previous years, the House has delegated power to individual committees to determine budgets for elementary and high school education ($6.8 billion), general services ($1.2 billion), higher education ($2 billion), human services ($12 billion) and public safety ($1.6 billion).

State Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Streamwood anticipated these numbers to be broken down even further into individual measures for specific agencies, instead of grouped together into one, all-encompassing budget package.

“They will be done separately unless we find that there is some synergy among some of these departments,” Crespo said.

As of yet, lawmakers agreed that not many of the numbers have been written in stone.

“This is it. We all left town … knowing that this was ahead of us… . And here we are today ready to put pen to paper,” Feigenholtz said.

The Governor’s office will be working closely with lawmakers, said Kelly Kraft, budget spokeswoman for Gov. Pat Quinn.

“There have been different estimates that have come out, but it’s a work in progress,” said Kraft. “We continue to work with legislators to come up with the best possible number.”

The House is working with a total budget of $33.4 billion budget, while the Governor has proposed $35.4 billion.

Illinois Statehouse News

Video Update from Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association CEO Sara Moscato Howe:

Video of State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) courtesy of Illinois Statehouse News.

New A&E TV Documentary Exposes Escalating Heroin Crisis in Chicago, Suburbs

(Springfield, IL) – April 22, 2011. A&E TV last week unveiled a new 45 minute documentary that exposes the escalating heroin crisis in Chicago and the suburbs as the State of Illinois slices its budget for drug treatment services.

“The video footage was taken during the recent mid-year fiscal year 2011 budget crisis in which Governor Pat Quinn’s Administration had planned to eliminate all state treatment and prevention funding for the remainder of the year,” said Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association CEO Sara Moscato Howe.

“The documentary accurately reflects the unfolding heroin crisis which is gripping Chicago’s suburbs,” said Howe. “Drug cartels are expanding their distributions operations in Chicago to meet the spiraling demand from the suburbs.”

The documentary depicts the efforts of several suburban residents struggling to overcome their addiction while state treatment service funding is squeezed by the state.

“It is worth the watch,” said Howe.

You can view the documentary here …

Illinois Youth Alcohol, Drug Prevention Group Wins $30,000 Federal Grant as New Report Says Teen Drug Use Zooms

(Springfield, IL) – April 8, 2011. Illinois’ leading youth alcohol, drug prevention group has received a $30,000 federal government grant to boost its prevention program effectiveness just as a new report released this week says teen drug and alcohol use is escalating as state governments slash prevention funding.

The Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association, which obtained the money from the Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies, on behalf of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration /Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, will use the competitive award for a year-long, comprehensive evaluation of its flagship prevention program, the Illinois Teen Institute program.

“We know this program works,” said IADDA CEO Sara Moscato Howe. “We have many individual success stories, but need a hard numbers assessment to evaluate and refine the program in order to more effectively deter Illinois teens from alcohol and drug abuse.”

The Illinois Teen Institute is an innovative program that develops Illinois youth as peer educators and advocates to their friends for alcohol, tobacco, and other drug prevention. The program develops community partnerships to support and encourage healthy teen lifestyle changes, and helps develop their leadership skills based on substance use prevention, touching approximately 5,000 Illinois teens each year, says Howe.

The new federal money comes just as a new report issued on Wednesday in New York by The Partnership Drug Free.org revealed there was a significant 67% increase in the number of teens who reported using Ecstasy in the past year, rising from 6% in 2008 to 10% in 2010. Similarly, marijuana use among teens has increased 22%, jumping from 32% in 2008 to 39% in 2010. Meanwhile, now 62% of teens said they had their first full alcoholic drink by age 15.

(more…)

Illinois House OKs Health Insurance Parity for Substance Abuse Treatment, Bill Heads to Senate

(Springfield, IL) – April 7, 2011. The Illinois House yesterday decisively approved legislation requiring parity of health insurance coverage for substance abuse treatment services in Illinois, setting the stage for a final push in the Illinois Senate

The House voted 72-39 for the measure, House Bill 1530, a plan that advocates claim will generate health care savings and boost worker productivity.

“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 by House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie).

“House approval of this legislation is an important step toward bringing health insurance parity to addiction health care,” said Lang. “However, the Senate is another key legislative hurdle in the process.”

Illinois Department of Insurance Director Michael McRaith has noted before an earlier House committee hearing that the independent U.S. Congressional Budget Office found that parity will only cause health insurance premiums to rise by 0.4 percent.

Howe also stressed the importance of ensuring that Illinoisans in need of substance use disorder treatment have equal access to addiction services and equitable insurance coverage.

“Addiction is a chronic disease, like diabetes, asthma or hypertension, and paying for its treatment yields as good a return as paying for treatment for other chronic illnesses.”  said Howe.

In addition to IADDA, other bill supporters include: Illinois Department of Insurance, Humana Healthcare, the Illinois Hospital Association, the Illinois State Medical Society, Illinois Psychiatric Society, Illinois Nurses Association, Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois, Illinois Society for Advanced Practice Nursing, Illinois Psychological Association, United Cerebral Palsy of Illinois, Don Moss & Associates, Association of Community Mental Health Authorities of Illinois, Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, National Alliance on Mental Health, National Association of Social Workers, Illinois Academy of Family Physicians, Illinois Speech Language Hearing Association, Illinois State Bar Association, American Academy of Pediatrics – Illinois Chapter, Chicago Lakeshore Hospital, Mental Health Summit, Illinois Osteopathic Medical Society and the Child Care Association of Illinois

“This legislation will improve access to lifesaving addiction treatment,” said Howe. “But we still have much work to do to get HB 1530 through the Illinois Senate.”

In addition to Lang, other House sponsors include: State Representatives Robyn Gabel, Will Davis,Naomi Jakobsson Fred Crespo, Dave Winters, Al Riley, Sara Feigenholtz, Mary Flowers, Joe Lyons, Maria Antonia Berrios, Jack Franks, Keith Farnham, Linda Chapa LaVia, Camille Lilly, Cynthia Soto, Ann Williams, Elizabeth Hernandez, John D’Amico, Daniel Biss, Pat Verschoore, and Harry Osterman.

Addiction Health Care Advocates Urge Illinois House Passage of Health Insurance Parity Plan

House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie)

(Springfield, IL) – April 4, 2011. The full Illinois House is expected on Tuesday, April 5, to vote on legislation requiring parity of health insurance coverage for substance abuse treatment services in Illinois, and the state’s top addiction health care advocate group is calling on lawmakers to approve the plan.

“We strongly encourage legislators to support health insurance parity for Illinois residents with substance use disorders,” said Sara Moscato Howe, CEO of the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association.

The measure, House Bill 1530, was approved 10-0 by the House Health Care Availability and Accessibility Committee on March 16. Advocates claim the legislaiton will generate health care savings and boost worker productivity.

“With this legislation, employers will see decreased health care costs and increased worker productivity.” said 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 by House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie).

At the March 16 committee hearing, Illinois Department of Insurance Director Michael McRaith testified that the independent U.S. Congressional Budget Office found that parity will only cause health insurance premiums to rise by 0.4 percent.

Additionally, Howe also stressed the importance of ensuring that Illinoisans in need of substance use disorder treatment have equal access to addiction services and equitable insurance coverage.

“Addiction is a chronic disease, like diabetes, asthma or hypertension, and paying for its treatment yields as good a return as paying for treatment for other chronic illnesses.”  said Howe.

In addition to Lang, House sponsors include State Reps: Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston), Will Davis (D-Chicago) and Naomi Jakobsson (D-Champaign).

In addition to IADDA, other bill supporters include: Humana Healthcare, the Illinois Hospital Association, the Illinois State Medical Society, Illinois Psychiatric Society, Illinois Nurses Association, Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois, Illinois Society for Advanced Practice Nursing, Illinois Psychological Association, United Cerebral Palsy of Illinois, Don Moss & Associates, Association of Community Mental Health Authorities of Illinois, Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities and the Child Care Association of Illinois

“This legislation will improve access to lifesaving addiction treatment by limiting the discriminatory barriers that have kept hundreds of Illinois citizens with substance use disorders from receiving the care they desperately need,” Howe added.

Illinois Senate Backs Bill to Ban Alcoholic Energy Drinks in Illinois

(Springfield, IL) — March 31, 2011. The Illinois state senate yesterday approved a measure that would ban the manufacture and sale of alcoholic energy drinks in Illinois, drawing praise from the state’s top substance abuse advocacy group.

Some parents and schools blame the drinks for a number of young people needing medical care and a handful of deaths.

“Alcoholic energy drinks are a menace to youth in Illinois. Manufacturers market these drinks to young people and convey the false impression that caffeine-laced alcohol counteracts the physical impairment of drinking,” said Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association CEO Sara Moscato Howe. “The Senate took an important step to protect lives of Illinois youth and others, and we applaud their action.”

The Senate approved the legislation, sponsored by State Senator Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago), Senate Bill 50, 54-1.

Illinois is the latest state to propose a ban on the drinks, such as the infamous Four Loko. The drink is described as having the caffeine punch of an energy drink and the alcohol impact of a bottle of malt liquor.

“These drinks create a false sense of security and actually encourage youth to drink more,” said Moscato Howe. “Alcohol energy drinks are a public health hazard.”

Four Loko is an Illinois-based company. The FDA is investigating the drinks and the state of Washington has already banned it. The company itself has voluntarily removed caffeine from the drink.

The legislation covers only the manufactured drinks that are sold in single serve cans.

Moscato Howe notes that popular cocktails such as vodka and the energy drink Red Bull are still served in bars across the state.

The measure now moves to the Illinois House. State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) is sponsoring the bill in that chamber.

Illinois Addiction Health Care Insurance Parity Bill Faces House Panel Vote

(Springfield, IL) – March 14, 2011. An Illinois House panel will vote Tuesday on legislation requiring parity for insurance coverage of substance use disorder services.

The measure, HB1530, which will be called before the House Health Care Availability and Accessibility Committee at 4 p.m., will result in health care savings and boost worker productivity, according to the state’s top addiction health care advocacy group.

“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.”

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

Howe also stressed the importance of ensuring that Illinoisans in need of substance use disorder treatment have equal access to addiction services and equitable insurance coverage.

“Addiction is a chronic disease, like diabetes, asthma or hypertension, and paying for its treatment yields as good a return as paying for treatment for other chronic illnesses.”  said Howe.

“This legislation will improve access to lifesaving addiction treatment by limiting the discriminatory barriers that have kept hundreds of Illinois citizens with substance use disorders from receiving the care they desperately need,” Howe added.

House committee members include State Representatives: Mary Flowers, Karen May, Dennis Reboletti, Luis Arroyo, Will Burns, Lisa Dugan, Esther Golar, David Harris, Greg Harris, Chad Hayes, Rosemary Mulligan, Keith Sommer, and Michael Tryon.