Health insurance plans regulated by the state would be required to cover and reimburse for telehealth and in-person services at the same level under a bill passed by the General Assembly this week.
House Bill 3308 heads to Gov. JB Pritzker’s desk for his signature after receiving unanimous approval Sunday in the Illinois Senate and Monday in the House.
Executive orders issued by Pritzker during the COVID-19 pandemic had required insurers to reimburse health care providers for telehealth with the same payment rates as in-person care.
If signed into law by Pritzker, the bill would extend the payment parity requirement indefinitely for mental health and substance use disorder services and through the end of 2027 for all other types of health care.
Because of federal regulations, the legislation would not apply to self-insured plans, which cover about half of Illinoisans. The bill also would not apply to Medicaid.
The bill would allow health insurers to negotiate future contracts with employers in which telehealth and in-person rates no longer would be the same.
Medicaid currently pays the same rates for telehealth as for in-person care. The state agency that administers Medicaid “has committed to that policy through at least the end of the calendar year and will continue to review access data to determine whether or not any changes will be made to that policy in the future,” said Jamie Munks, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.
Advocates of HB 3308 called the legislation groundbreaking and a recognition by state policymakers of the effectiveness of telehealth services, especially during the pandemic but after, as well, because virtual care can be time-saving and more convenient.
“We’re very pleased,” said Danny Chun, spokesman for the Illinois Health and Hospital Association.
IHA was part of a coalition of health care groups and other advocacy groups, including AARP Illinois and Heartland Alliance, that called for telehealth equity.
Only a handful of states have enacted telehealth payment parity into law, Chun said.
“Illinois will join the digital health care revolution,” he said.
The bill requires state officials to complete a study on the effectiveness of telehealth services in Illinois before January 2028.
A news release from the Illinois Coalition to Protect Telehealth said: “Telehealth use has been demonstrated to increase care plan adherence and improved chronic disease management, and in recent surveys, over 70% of Illinois hospital respondents and 78% of community based behavioral health care respondents reported that telehealth has helped drive a reduction in the rates at which patients missed appointments.
“Surveys of Illinois physicians, community health centers, and specialized mental health and substance use disorder treatment providers have also revealed similar dramatic reductions in missed appointments.”
Lead pipe replacement
The House passed a bill that aims to replace the lead water pipes in Illinois.
House Bill 3739 was passed by the House in April after a lengthy debate over the cost to the state. It was updated with amendments in the Senate to address concerns and passed the House Monday with bipartisan support in an 85-28 vote.
The bill now goes to Pritzker’s desk.
College athletes likeness benefits
The Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bill Tuesday that would allow Illinois college athletes to receive market-level compensation for the use of their name, image, likeness and voice.
Senate Bill 2338, which heads to the governor’s desk for his signature after House approval May 29, also would allow college athletes to hire an agent.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Napoleon Harris III, D-Harvey, a former professional football player after his time on the Northwestern University team, said: “This is the right thing to do. These young men and women put it out there on the line. Yeah, they get the scholarship, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t come close to what they are worth.”
The bill was approved on a bipartisan basis in both legislative chambers, with a 95-18 vote in the House and a 56-2 vote in the Senate.
Free menstrual hygiene products
The Senate approved a bill Monday that would require all public and private schools in the state to provide free menstrual products in bathrooms used by students in grades four through 12.
Now headed to the governor’s desk, House Bill 156 passed 39-17, with supporters saying “period poverty” results in students not being able to afford products such as pads, tampons or panty liners to manage menstrual bleeding.
Critics of the bill, which passed the House May 20 on a vote of 68-43, objected to the legislation’s requirement that free menstrual products also be available in male bathrooms. They suggested boys would stuff the products down school toilets and cause other damage.
Critics also complained about the expense schools would incur buying the products.
Supporters said transgender students who use male bathrooms still could use the products during their period, and boys might want to obtain the products for girls.
“Just vote for the bill. It’s a good bill,” said bill sponsor Sen. Karina Villa, D-West Chicago.
Lawmakers also sent to the governor’s desk House Bill 641, which would require students at Illinois public universities and community colleges to have free access to menstrual hygiene products.
In addition to those bills, Gov. JB Pritzker will decide whether to sign into law House Bill 310, which says homeless shelters should make free menstrual hygiene products available if their budgets allow.
Local law enforcement and cooperation with immigration officials
Lawmakers passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Lisa Hernandez, D-Cicero, changing how Illinois law enforcement cooperates with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
The bill closes immigration detention centers and prevents Illinois law enforcement from asking about immigration status.
The House passed Senate Bill 667 68-47 on Monday. The Senate passed the bill 36-19 on Friday.
“Immigrant communities continue to fear interaction with police due to ongoing police cooperation with immigration enforcement,” Hernandez said.
Rep. Patrick Windhorst, R-Metropolis, said he was concerned about how the bill would be interpreted and whether a police officer on a routine traffic stop would be able to ask a question such as, “Where are you from?”
Hernandez said the bill prevents police from asking a question specifically about immigration status. Still, Windhorst said, immigration issues should continue to be handled at the federal level.
Asian American history
Lawmakers sent a bill to the governor’s desk requiring elementary, middle and high schools to teach Asian American history.
Asian lawmakers have pushed for legislation this spring to better educate Illinoisans about the contributions Asian Americans have made to the country. House Bill 376 sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, D-Glenview, passed the House 108-10 on Monday and 57-0 on May 25.
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