May was a busy month for the legal experts here at Legal Council for Health Justice. When we weren’t serving and empowering low-income people with chronic illnesses or disabilities at over a dozen on-site clinics across the city, or suing the State of Illinois on behalf of thousands of Illinoisans wrongfully delayed or denied Medicaid coverage, OR leading advocacy efforts in the State Board of Education investigation into CPS’ special education program and procedural violations, our team was hard at work advocating for numerous policies across the State. Collaborative leadership with our phenomenal community partners made these legislative victories possible:
- SB 454, Enhancing Parent Participation in CPS Special Education: In the wake of a path-breaking inquiry into CPS’ special education policies and procedures that found significant violations to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Legal Council continued its work with our allies in the advocate community to ensure CPS is held accountable. We took an important step in that direction by collaborating with Rep. Fred Crespo to pass an amendment to SB 454 in the waning days of the legislative session, providing parents and guardians with more information about their students and the IEP process while strengthening transparency and better enabling parents to participate as equal team members in CPS’ special education process. This bill passed both the House and the Senate on May 31, and is on its way to Gov. Rauner’s desk.
- SB 3015, Stock Asthma Rescue Medication in Schools: The expert advocates in our children & families program have been hard at work in strengthening access to care for children across Chicagoland and Illinois. The Stock Asthma Rescue Medication in Schools bill passed both the House and the Senate unanimously, allowing schools to stock undesignated asthma rescue medication and allowing school nurses and trained school staff to provide the medication at the first signs of respiratory distress. In Illinois, more than 330,000 children have reported asthma, but less than 25% of this children have their asthma under proper control; in one school year, students miss an estimated number of 300,000 school days in Illinois due to asthma. SB 3015 serves to create a safer environment for all students living with asthma. In a press release, Legal Council’s Children & Families Program Director Amy Zimmerman said “SB 3015 will give schools the ability to quickly respond to asthma emergencies and work with students and families to ensure ongoing proper asthma management at school.” Legal Council partnered with Respiratory Health Association to propose this policy, as well as to create an issue brief analyzing the fit and feasibility of stock asthma rescue medication in Illinois schools. SB 3015 is currently on its way to Gov. Rauner to be signed into law.
- HB 2624 SA3, the Short Term Limited Duration Health Insurance Coverage Act: Alongside our Protect Our Care Illinois partners, Legal Council advocates led the charge on HB 2624, which will impose a six-month limit on short-term insurance plans. This effort comes after regulation changes proposed by the federal government to increase access to short term plans, which are meant to serve as coverage for people in between health plans–like when someone changes jobs. Short-term health plans are different from other health insurance plans: short-term plans offer strict limitations on coverage, including excluding coverage for preexisting conditions, prescription drugs, and weekend hospital treatment. Instead of accessing much needed affordable coverage, hardworking Illinoisans on short-term plans are left with expensive medical bills. After months of advocacy, the bill passed both the House and the Senate and is on the way to Gov. Rauner’s desk. Legal Council is proud to fight alongside our state-wide partners to Protect Illinois Care.
- HB 4165, the Do No Harm Healthcare Act: You’re probably familiar with the countless, constant attacks on health coverage and services by Congress and the White House. These attacks continue to threaten the health and well-being of Illinoisans by restricting access to healthcare coverage, cutting benefits, and increasing consumer costs. HB 4165–which successfully passed both houses and is on the way to Gov. Rauner–would ensure the General Assembly has input in a public process should any Illinois Governor use a federal invitation to reduce healthcare access and treatment. In the current times of frequent healthcare sabotage, this bill protects access to health care from harmful policies, such as Medicaid “work requirements.” Thank you to the collaboration and leadership from all of our Protect Our Care Illinois partners for their hard work and advocacy for this bill!
- SB 2996, Protect Children by Updating Illinois’ Lead Poisoning Definition to Meet CDC Standard: The State legislature passed SB 2996, with the help of advocacy efforts led by Legal Council and our partners in Housing Action Illinois and Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law. This bill directs the Illinois Department of Public Health to propose new state rules, within 180 days after this Act is implemented, that change the definition of the elevated blood lead level to the same as the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which is currently set at 5 μg/dL (“micrograms per deciliter”). Currently, the Illinois definition is at 10 μg/dL–twice as high as the federal level, meaning Illinois children exposed to lower levels of lead go without access to childcare services (such as Early Intervention) while having the same amount of risk for physical, emotional, and mental health concerns or damage. This bill also changes the rules of regulating facilities with a history of lead hazards. Legal Council has made lead poisoning a priority with the announcement of our lead pilot program in November 2017, and will continue its work with the official launch of this pilot program later this year.
Stay tuned for updates on these bills and other advocacy initiatives, and to learn how you can help protect the care for Illinoisans!