Biss05312016Legislation designed to ensure patients receive information about their options when health care providers decline to treat them on religious grounds will go to Gov. Bruce Rauner for his signature.

The legislation, Senate Bill 1564, is an update to Illinois’ Health Care Right of Conscience law, which allows doctors, nurses, hospitals and others to refuse to offer certain types of health care and referrals if the treatment violates their religious beliefs.

However, some patients in need of emergency medical treatment have been caught unaware by medical providers’ refusal to treat them and by their objections to offer referrals to other providers for needed treatment.

Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), who sponsored the legislation, said his proposal encourages more transparency in the patient-doctor relationship by requiring providers to establish written protocols for offering information about available treatment options and how to access them.

“Under current state law – which is among the broadest in the nation – health care providers are able to withhold vital information from patients that could mean the difference between life and death, all because of personal objections,” Biss said. “This legislation restores some balance to that patient-doctor relationship.”

Senate Bill 1564 was approved Wednesday in the Illinois House. The Senate initially approved it in April 2015.

“Medical providers should have the right to refuse to offer treatments that are inconsistent with their faith, but we must make sure patients are able to get the information they need to access those services and make informed decisions about their care,” Biss said. “This modest change in the law offers protection to both parties in the involved in the health care transaction.”

Category: News

BissSenate052016An effort to put the brakes on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s plan to take critical home care services away from Illinois’ aging population passed out of the state Senate.

Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), chairman of the Senate’s Human Services Committee, sponsored legislation in response to the Rauner administration’s proposed cuts to the state’s Community Care Program.

The measure, House Bill 4351, would protect elderly residents who qualify to receive health care services in their homes through the program, rather than requiring them to move into more expensive nursing home settings, as Rauner has suggested.

“The Community Care Program enables the state to provide humane care to senior citizens while also saving money by keeping people out of nursing homes,” Biss said.

“I stand ready to work with all stakeholders to deliver these services in a more cost-effective, client-centered and efficient way. But I have serious concerns about Gov. Rauner’s proposal.”

The Rauner administration has proposed massive cuts to the Community Care Program, which provides homecare services to thousands of senior citizens.

The governor’s plan is to establish a new program called the Community Reinvestment Program, which would offer a “modified package of services” to about 43,000 non-Medicaid eligible seniors, who currently make up about 40 percent of the Community Care Program’s clients.

By removing the non-Medicaid population from the program – and thus forcing them to receive care in costly nursing homes – Rauner claims the state will save $197 million, derived from forcing seniors to rely on family and community resources for assistance.

However, the administration has not released a detailed explanation of how this transition would work.

Without such a plan, Biss said, this change could be devastating to thousands of Illinois families who barely get by and rely on the Community Care Program to help their loved ones receive care at home.

“Unfortunately, Gov. Rauner has chosen a blunt and ill-conceived approach to creating savings on paper. If we go forward with his proposal, tens of thousands of seniors would be at risk of losing services they have come to depend upon,” Biss said. “What he is proposing would be both cruel and fiscally unwise for the state.”

Under House Bill 4351, individuals with a Determination of Need – or DON – score of 29 or higher would remain eligible for services for at least one year should the Rauner administration reduce the eligibility threshold.

Further, the legislation would prevent nursing home residents under the program from being involuntarily discharged without a transition plan.

Category: News

Biss05252016A measure that would bar state government from suing inmates and parolees for the cost of their prison room and board will go to Gov. Bruce Rauner for his signature.

The legislation, sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) and Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), was approved by members of the Illinois House on Wednesday. It previously was approved by the Senate.

“Gov. Rauner has the opportunity to put an end to a practice that is unfair, overly punitive and fails the cost-benefit test. The state collects far less from these lawsuits than it costs to pursue them,” Biss said.

Senate Bill 2465 would prohibit the Illinois Department of Corrections from suing current and former inmates to recoup the cost of their incarceration. Illinois has had a law allowing the state to sue inmates since 1982, but it was rarely used until recently. A Chicago Tribune investigation raised questions about the practice.

Illinois has discretion in determining which inmates and parolees to sue. Most of them are poor and had received modest inheritances or civil settlements involving private matters or their arrest.

The state has recovered about a half-million dollars since 2010, but most of it was from two inmates.

“By pursuing these lawsuits, the state sends the wrong message about what it means for inmates to pay their debt to society,” Biss said. “Rather than encouraging them to make a fresh start when they’re released from prison, Illinois is choosing to push them toward a life of poverty, reliance on government support or recidivism.

“That’s the wrong approach, and I hope Gov. Rauner will see it that way, too.”

Category: News

Biss051016Illinois taxpayers would know more about currently undisclosed investment fees charged to public pension funds under legislation sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston).

Under current state law, these sometimes lucrative fees charged by private equity firms and hedge fund managers are not subject to public disclosure under Illinois’ Freedom of Information Act, even though taxpayers are on the hook for them.

“I find it extraordinary that we accept Wall Street’s demands that these fees be kept secret from the people who are responsible for paying them,” Biss said. “Not only are taxpayers shut out of knowing how much is being charged to the pension systems, the entity making those payments is not privy to the information either.

“The result is a system in which the people of Illinois are in the dark about the kinds of significant financial liabilities they’re being exposed to.”

According to a 2015 ranking by Institutional Investor’s Alpha magazine, the country’s 25 top-earning hedge fund managers raked in an estimated $11.6 billion in 2014. The previous year, the top 25 collectively earned nearly double that, estimated to be more than $21 billion.

Comparatively, the aggregate pay for all of the kindergarten teachers in the nation in 2014 was an estimated $8.5 billion.

The legislation, House Bill 6292, would bring greater transparency to investment fees by requiring public annual disclosures.

“Not only is this a transparency bill, it is a bill without an agenda,” Biss said. “Disclosure of these fees will lead to better decision making and perhaps healthier competition for the pension funds’ business.”

The Senate Executive Committee voted Wednesday to send the legislation to the Senate floor for consideration.

Category: News

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