05172018CM0683 rRecognizing the important relationship between patients and their doctors, Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) sponsored a measure to allow Medicaid patients to switch managed care organizations if the contract with their primary care provider is cancelled.

“A good relationship between a patient and their doctor can lead to better medical outcomes and patient compliance,” Steans said. “Medicaid patients who are happy with their primary care provider should be able to change health insurance plans to stay with their doctor rather than being uprooted and forced to find a new physician.”

Currently, if a contract between a doctor and a managed care organization is terminated, the Medicaid patient’s care remains with the managed care organization. This forces patients to find new doctors. House Bill 4383 would allow patients in this situation to re-enroll in a new managed care organization in order to stay with their primary care doctor.

House Bill 4383 passed the Senate today with a vote of 58-0.

Proposal gets money into hands of business owners more quickly


04112018CM0971SPRINGFIELD – An innovative proposal from State Senator Heather Steans could help businesses and state government at the same time by paying down Illinois’ backlog of bills more quickly.

Steans’ measure would allow the state treasurer to take over debts more than 90 days old, pay the vendors and clear the bills from the state’s ledgers. The approach would enable Illinois to pay off old debts more quickly, slow the accrual of interest penalties and inject money into local economies where businesses have been harmed by the state’s ongoing budget difficulties.

“This is a winning strategy to make more headway on the bill backlog. Every taxpayer benefits,” said Steans, a Chicago Democrat and a Senate point person on budget matters.

“If the treasurer has funds sitting there unused, why shouldn’t that money logically be available for this need? It won’t solve the entire bill backlog problem, but it will get us to a resolution more quickly.”

The proposal, Senate Bill 2858, would allow the state treasurer to pay bills more than 90 days old if the vouchers in the comptroller’s office exceed funds available by $1 billion. It would save the state additional money by implementing a 0.3 percent monthly late payment interest penalty – rather than the 1 percent under current law – on balances paid off by the treasurer’s office through the Vendor Payment Program.

Last year, Illinois paid more than $1 billion in late interest penalties – an outrageous and inefficient use of taxpayer dollars that could have been directed to other needs, Steans said.

“This legislation will help stop the accrual of interest on late payments and enable us to turn around payments to companies that do business with the state in a more reasonable amount of time,” Steans said.

Senate Bill 2858 passed the Senate today and now advances to the House for further consideration.

Senator Steans on the Seante floor.

Illinois a step closer to endorsing constitutionally protected rights for women

SPRINGFIELD – After a nearly 50 year-long battle, the Illinois State Senate took a historic vote Wednesday to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and solidify equal rights for all.

“Women across the nation are rising up and pushing back against laws and policies that deny our equality,” said State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago), sponsor of the measure. “By voting to ratify the ERA, Illinois lawmakers are saying to women everywhere, ‘We hear you, and we stand with you.’”

The Equal Rights Amendment declares that equality of rights will not be denied by the United States or any state on account of sex. It initially was introduced in Congress in 1923 and was sent to the states for ratification 46 years ago.

Several advancements for women’s rights, such as the Equal Pay Act and Title IX, could be repealed by a majority vote in Congress. The Executive Branch also could reduce enforcement of these acts. The ERA solidifies legal protections for women.

“Many people do not realize women have no guaranteed equal rights under the U.S. Constitution. From equal pay to equal health care access, women’s rights are in jeopardy as long as our equality is not cemented in the Constitution,” Steans said.

Decades of widespread misinformation have hindered Illinois’ ability to ratify the ERA, she added.

“For decades, opposition has argued that the ERA would open women to being drafted and that it would hurt mothers in custody or divorce battles,” Steans said. “The fact is the ERA would strengthen protections and legal standards for women.”

To date, 36 states have voted to ratify the ERA, with Nevada being the most recent. To be ratified to the Constitution, 38 states must approve the amendment.

The legislation now moves to the House for further consideration. For Illinois to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, three-fifths of House members will need to vote in support.

Steans also sponsored a measure to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in 2014.

This is the first piece of legislation passed in the Senate with the support of the newly formed, bipartisan Senate Women’s Caucus.

Demand grows for intractable pain to be on Illinois’ medical marijuana approved condition list

Sen. Steans and Rep. Cassidy deliver petition signatures to the governor.SPRINGFIELD – Nearly 5,000 petition signatures asking that intractable pain be added to the list of approved conditions for Illinois’ medical marijuana program were delivered to the governor’s office today.

State Senator Heather Steans and State Representative Kelly Cassidy, both Chicago Democrats, delivered the petitions, along with a strong message about Gov. Bruce Rauner’s preference to continue appealing a judge’s ruling on the matter.

“Given a choice between showing compassion for those suffering from chronic pain or pursuing a costly legal battle, the Rauner administration chose the latter,” Steans said. “I do not believe that appealing the court’s decision is an effective use of taxpayer dollars. From the number of Illinoisans that signed this petition, I’m not the only one that seems to think so.”

In February, the Rauner administration decided to appeal a Cook County judge’s ruling to add intractable pain to the list of qualifying conditions in the medical marijuana program. Intractable pain is a severe form of chronic pain. Patients with intractable pain may be prescribed opioids to cope with this condition.

"Tens of thousands of Illinois residents who are suffering from intractable pain have few choices for relief besides dangerous opiates,” Cassidy said. “Intractable pain isn't going away, but we can provide folks a safer alternative."

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