Several measures were signed into law during the week, including legislation focused on keeping students in-state, addressing the growing opioid crisis and mental health issues in Illinois, and a proposal to give motorists the option for a two-year vehicle registration.
In other news, Medicare card holders will no longer have their Social Security numbers listed on their Medicare cards.
Growing enrollment decline inspires higher education reforms
Legislation focused on improving the affordability and effectiveness of Illinois’ higher education system were signed into law during the week, continuing efforts to keep students in-state.
Senate Bill 2927 creates the AIM HIGH Grant Pilot Program to encourage access and affordability for Illinois colleges and universities through a new merit-based scholarship. Colleges and public universities have the option to participate in the program where eligible students would be awarded an institutional match grant, making college more affordable for students seeking to obtain their degrees in-state. This bill makes good sense to me.
House Bill 4781 creates the College and Career Interest Task Force. The Task Force will develop a process by which data may be collected and shared amongst public institutions of higher education. The goal is for the data to be utilized to make Illinois’ institutions of higher learning more marketable and attractive to potential students. The Task Force will submit their findings before the General Assembly by Jan. 30, 2019.
Both measures were included in the comprehensive package of legislation proposed by the Higher Education Working Group earlier this year. The bipartisan group of lawmakers came together to address the growing outmigration of college students in Illinois. Their assumption has been that if students goes to a university outside of Illinois, they will not return to Illinois. I believe their reasoning is false. Students might not return to Illinois because our Legislature has allowed a huge unfunded pension liability to put a significant burden on future generations of Illinoisans. That is why some students who attend out-of-state universities might not come back. And some students attending in-state universities leave as well. It is the mess politicians have made of Illinois that causes students to leave, not where they attend college.
New laws to address growing opioid crisis
Five new state laws take steps toward addressing the state’s ongoing opioid crisis and improving access to mental health and substance abuse treatment.
Senate Bill 1707 expands the definition for “mental, emotional, nervous, or substance use disorder or condition.” Under this legislation, insurance companies’ coverage for patients seeking treatment for mental health and substance abuse disorders will be improved and consumers will receive better protections from the Department of Insurance.
Senate Bill 682 creates the Emergency Opioid and Addiction Treatment Access Act, removing authorization barriers that could discourage or delay individuals seeking help for substance abuse disorders from receiving treatment.
Senate Bill 3049 expands the list of Medicaid providers eligible to receive reimbursement for Psychiatric Telehealth services allowing patients to have increased access to behavioral and mental health care.
Senate Bill 3023 creates the Community-Law Enforcement Partnership for Deflection and Addiction Treatment Act, facilitating a partnership between law enforcement agencies and licensed substance abuse service providers to address the growing opioid crisis.
Senate Bill 2951 requires the Department of Healthcare and Family Services to create pilot programs for Medicaid beneficiaries targeting early treatment for mental illness and opioid addiction.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, opioids were involved in 80 percent of overdose deaths in 2016.
Two-year registration available for Illinois drivers
A new law that gives motorists the option to register their vehicles for more than one year at a time aims to make vehicle registration more convenient while saving the state money. A good, commonsense idea from Illinois. What a surprise!
Under House Bill 4259, motorists will be able to register their vehicles for one or two years. It also allows owners of trailers to register their trailer for up to five years. The price per year would be the same, but motorists would be able to pay multiple years up front and would not have to change their sticker every year. The cost-saving initiative was signed into law on Aug. 20 and will take effect beginning in 2021.
Changes to Medicare cards
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Medicare recipients can expect to receive new Medicare cards that better protect private information moving forward. The Center is removing Social Security Numbers from all Medicare cards, replacing the number with a new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier. Citing medical identity theft as the main reason for the change, CMS says they can better protect private information by removing SSN from the cards.
Current benefits will not be affected by this change and recipients will receive their new cards in the mail. More information about the new Medicare cards can be found at the CMS.gov website.