SPRINGFIELD – As 2017 winds to a close, legislative action for the year may have wrapped up, but Illinois citizens will begin 2018 with more than 200 new laws taking effect.
From bills to help veterans and reduce government waste, to a controversial law expanding taxpayer funding for abortions, legislation covering a wide variety of issues will become law at the turn of the year. Another measure that will take effect on Jan. 1 was signed by the Governor on Dec. 13 to combat fraudulent opioid prescriptions by targeting “doctor-shopping.”
Also during the week, the state’s Health Care Fraud Elimination Task Force reported approximately $450 million in fraudulent or wasteful Medicaid spending has been saved, prevented or recovered in Illinois over the last two fiscal years.
Capital funds to be released for major projects
Millions of capital dollars will soon be flowing to important local projects, helping to create jobs and improve infrastructure, according to State Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford).
"The projects will pay long-term dividends in terms of infrastructure while creating jobs right now," said Syverson. "I’d like to thank the Governor for releasing these funds so we can get people to work."
Locally, the capital funds that are being released include $3 million (part of an $11 million appropriation) to renovate and expand space at Rock Valley College, $2.4 million to Crusader Community Health (part of a total grant of $3 million) for a project aimed at adding 18 exam rooms along with other upgrades to their existing infrastructure.
“Providing funds to Crusader Community Health to improve healthcare access, and to Rock Valley College and the DeKalb Library will help the entire Northern Illinois region,” said Governor Bruce Rauner.
Senator Syverson remains committed to making sure that all the projects are eventually funded at the full appropriated levels. He also noted the importance of passing a full, statewide capital building plan in the spring legislative session.
“It’s great to see some of the projects I worked so hard get released. Unfortunately we still have a number of key projects still waiting to get funded by the state.” said Sen. Syverson. “This underscores why we keep fighting for the passage of a gaming bill which would fund key Capital projects left on our list.”
Combatting Opioid Abuse
Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, a new law will help deter the practice known as “doctor-shopping” for prescription drugs, by requiring prescribers to check a patient’s prescription history before writing a prescription.
Often individuals abusing opioids and other drugs obtain prescriptions from multiple doctors to support their addiction. Senate Bill 772/PA 100-0564 requires prescribers to check with the Illinois Prescription Monitoring Program, a database that records patients’ prescription histories, before prescribing opioids.
Signed on Dec. 13, the new law will allow doctors to make more informed decisions about care for high-risk patients to ensure physicians aren’t overprescribing—and that the patient isn’t doctor-shopping.
Helping Our Veterans
Several measures that take effect January 1st seek to provide veterans with the tools they need to be successful when returning to civilian life.
Senate Bill 1238 allows for the expansion of the number of veterans’ courts in the state, which are able to focus directly on the special needs of former and current members of the Armed Services. In some instances, veterans who qualify and successfully comply with court orders are able to receive the treatment they need and have their charges dismissed.
Senate Bill 866 requires the state’s Department of Veterans’ Affairs to give informational resources on service animals to veterans returning from deployment. The legislation was introduced in response to information gathered by the 2015 Veterans’ Suicide Task Force, which found that many veterans do not know about all the services and programs offered to them, especially those pertaining to service animals.
Senate Bill 838 seeks to educate veterans about the importance of early cancer screening, while House Bill 3701 seeks to help current and former members of the military advance their higher education, by requiring public universities and community colleges to form a policy to award appropriate academic credit for the education and training gained during military service.
Organ Donor Registry
Also beginning in 2018, 16-year-olds will have the opportunity to have their names included in the First Person Consent organ and tissue donor registry. House Bill 1805 reduces the age of consent from 18 to 16, to give younger residents the option to become a donor, which will increase the numbers of organ and tissue donors in the database.
Medicaid Fraud Prevention Efforts Prove Fruitful
The state’s Health Care Fraud Elimination Task Force reported this week that approximately $450 million in fraudulent or wasteful Medicaid spending has been saved, prevented or recovered in Illinois over the last two fiscal years, ensuring more of the state’s much-needed health care dollars are spent on truly needy beneficiaries.
It has been estimated by the Office of Inspector General that $195 million was saved or recouped in fiscal year 2017, and $220.2 million in savings have been reported for fiscal year 2016. Also in fiscal year 2016, the Illinois State Police’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit has reported 46 fraud convictions and $35.4 million has been recovered through criminal prosecutions, civil actions and administrative referrals.
The Health Care Fraud Elimination Task Force was created in 2016 in response to the country’s multi-billion dollar Medicaid fraud industry. The Task Force was asked to develop and coordinate a comprehensive plan to prevent and eliminate health care fraud, waste and abuse by deploying a cross-agency, data-driven approach.