The Illinois House of Representatives convened for a single day of in-person session on Thursday, March 18 to take up pressing legislation. The House continues to host remote legislative committees and the Senate remains in session. Both chambers will be at ease during the legislative spring break, March 29 to April 9, and will convene thereafter until scheduled adjournment on May 31.
Key Bills of Note to UnityPoint Health
Black Caucus Healthcare Pillar Legislation – House Bill 158
Representative Camille Lilly (D-Oak Park) sponsored legislation as the final bill of the Legislative Black Caucus’ four legislative pillars: social justice, economic equity, education reform and health care. Each of the other Black Caucus pillar bills passed during the Lame Duck Session in mid-January.
HB 158 seeks to narrow the gaps in health care disparities in low-income, distressed communities, and consists of the following pertinent provisions:
- Creates the Community Health Worker Certification and Reimbursement Act to establish a mechanism for the certification of community health workers.
- Creates the Medicaid Managed Care Oversight Commission to evaluate the effectiveness of Illinois’ managed care program.
- Creates the Medicaid Business Opportunity Commission with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) to develop a program to support and grow minority, women, and persons with disability owned businesses.
- Adds one additional voting member to the Health Facilities Services and Review Board that must be a representative from the community with experience on the effects of discontinuing health care services or the closure of a health care facility.
- Allows the Health Facilities and Services Review Board to defer action on any hospital closure, filed prior to the effective date of the bill (immediately upon signature), for 60 days. Extends a hospital closure moratorium through the end of the pandemic.
- Requires a health care professional who has continuing education requirements (including hospital team members) to complete at least one (1) hour of implicit biased training.
- Creates a Behavioral Heath Workforce Education Center within a higher education institution, for the purpose of implementing strategies for workforce development in behavioral health workforce.
HB 158 is now in the Senate for a concurrence vote, which is expected to occur in short order, followed by a signature from the Governor.
Prejudgment Interest Trailer Bill – Senate Bill 72
The legislation serves as a “trailer bill” to House Bill 3360, which was passed during the early-morning hours of the lame duck session and sought to apply prejudgment interest beginning at the notice to the defendant of injury to all actions brought to recover damages for personal injuries or wrongful death lawsuits.
SB 72 reflected HB 3360 with the following changes:
- Lowers the pre-judgement interest from 9% to 6% and imposes a five-year cap.
- Interest begins to accrue at the time of filing, rather than the identification of the injury.
- Interest does not apply during the period of voluntary dismissals.
- Interest applied only if the judgement is greater than the highest written settlement offer (interest applied to the difference), if the settlement offer is made within the first 12 months.
- If the judgement is less than the highest written settlement offer, no interest shall apply.
- Exempts the state of Illinois and all government entities.
The Illinois Health and Hospital Association took a neutral position on the bill, considering the changes. Considering this position, the Governor is expected to veto HB 3360 and sign SB 72 into law.
Telehealth Parity – House Bill 3498
Representative Deb Conroy (D-Villa Park) passed legislation out of the House Healthcare Availability and Accessibility Committee on Tuesday, March 23, which seeks to create coverage and payment parity for telehealth services, with in-person services, throughout Illinois. The bill should require telehealth to be reimbursed at the same rate as in-person care.
Rep. Conroy pledged to continue to work with the insurance industry, which remains opposed, and bring an amendment back to the Committee for consideration. UnityPoint Health supports this legislation and is engaging with area legislators and other members of The Coalition to Protect Telehealth to ensure legislative passage this session. Additionally, please click here to view a brief explainer video from Ashley Thompson, director of government & external affairs for UnityPoint Health, about this bill.
Nurse Staffing – House Bill 2642 and House Bill 3871
Representative Fred Crespo (D-Hoffman Estates) introduced two bills of note specific to nurse staffing. First, House Bill 2642 would require hospitals to pay nurses a minimum of four (4) hours at the nurses’ regular rate of pay if they report to work and are sent home without working their full scheduled shift. Second, House Bill 3871 is reintroduced legislation that would require mandatory nurse-staffing ratios in hospitals and create large daily penalties for hospitals who fail to satisfy the ratios. Currently, only one other state in the country – California – imposed similar staffing ratios over 20 years ago, and no other states have followed suit.
Rep. Crespo is not calling the legislation in House Committee by the Committee deadline, Friday March 26; however, efforts by the bill sponsor and the nurses unions will continue throughout the legislative session.
Hospitals need the flexibility to determine appropriate staffing levels to meet patient needs and regularly monitor patient acuity and individual need and respond accordingly in the most clinically appropriate manner. Hospitals also must be fiscally prudent, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
UnityPoint Health believes in providing high quality, patient-centered care by allowing nurses the flexibility they need to do the work they were trained to perform.
For more information on State of Illinois advocacy, legislative, policy and regulatory issues of impact to UnityPoint Health, please contact Ashley Thompson, director of government & external affairs for UnityPoint Health.