Other provisions in bill Pritzker signed off onOther provisions include recognizing veteran support specialists as mental health professionals under the state’s Medicaid plan; coverage of both individual and group tobacco cessation programs; requiring in-patient treatment for anyone experiencing an opioid overdose or withdrawal if it’s determined to be medically necessary; coverage of kidney transplant medications regardless of a patient’s U.S. residency status; and providing a 10 percent increase, through March 31, 2022, in reimbursement rates for supportive living facilities, to be paid for with federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. House Majority Leader Greg Harris, a Chicago Democrat and member of the Medicaid working group, said this year’s bill is aimed at addressing many of the health care disparities that have existed in Illinois for years but which were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s something we in the legislature do every year to improve health care for people in every corner of the state of Illinois, but this will be really the first post-COVID omnibus bill,” he said. “And in this, we’ve learned a lot of lessons from the last year about inequities and disparities and communities hardest hit by COVID. Many of these are covered by Illinois Medicaid. Some of these folks were not covered at all. So today is a step one of many steps to expand coverage and access to make it more user friendly and reduce disparities for people to get health care.”
Critical blood shortageTuesday’s bill signing took place at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, a southwest suburb of Chicago, where health care officials were also conducting a blood drive to address a critical shortage that’s being experienced throughout the state and the country. Bill Rhoades, chief medical officer at the hospital, said blood usage nationwide has risen about 10 percent recently, due largely to increased visits to emergency rooms. Joy Squier, regional communications officer for the American Red Cross in Illinois, said the shortage is especially critical as the nation heads into the peak of summer activity. “While summer is traditionally a time when blood donations do decline, this year is particularly challenging as many Americans receive their vaccinations, resume summer activities, and after more than a year of limited interactions, are doing what’s fun and what we all want to do,” she said. “But it’s leading to lower turnout.” She said people can schedule an appointment to donate at a blood bank in their area by visiting the website RedCrossBlood.org, or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
Peter Hancock is the Statehouse reporter for Capitol News Illinois and held that position since January 2019. Hancock previously covered the state government in Kansas for much of two decades, including stints with the Lawrence Journal-World and Kansas Public Radio. He would also report for the Kansas Health Policy Authority and the Kansas Education Policy Report.