5 Things Illinois: Hospital priorities, Vaccine disparities, Telehealth bills

Welcome to our first edition of our market and policy intelligence newsletter for Illinois’s health care sector. This is a run down of five things we think are worth tracking if you’re a senior market executive or health policy leader in Illinois. I don’t expect everything on this list will be top of mind for everyone of our readers. But, I’m hoping you’ll find a nugget or two that is worth taking away, and which you won’t find in reporting elsewhere.

While we’re just getting started in Illinois, we cover 15 states now across the country. I founded State of Reform back in 2010, which I tell you simply to say if you every have any questions, complaints or kudos about our work at State of Reform, I’m always at the other end of this email. I’d be happy to hear from you.





With help from Emily Boerger

1. IHA outlines 3 “asks” from federal government

In a conversation with State of Reform, the Illinois Hospital Association (IHA) outlined three actions they want to see from the federal government in order stay financially afloat in 2021. IHA is calling for $35 billion to be added to the Provider Relief Fund and for the suspension of the 2% Medicare sequestration payment adjustment to be extended.

They are also hoping the Senate will delay payment — or even forgive — loans taken out through the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payments Program. Danny Chun at IHA says that without changes and funding at the federal level, state legislators will not be able to do much to protect hospitals.


2. Racial disparities in vaccines

Despite making up 18% of the state population, Hispanic individuals account for 25% of Illinois’ COVID cases and just 9% of the state’s vaccinations. Fourteen percent of Illinois’ population is Black, yet 8% of vaccinations have gone to this group. White individuals make up 61% of the state population but 74% of vaccines administered.

The data in Chicago tells a similar story, where a recent analysis found zip codes that are majority-Black or Latino average around 5% of residents who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. The average in majority white zip codes was 13%. Gov. Pritzker has announced several initiatives in recent weeks aimed at ensuring an equitable vaccine rollout, including a new partnership with FQHCs and safety net hospitals and a $10 million public awareness campaign.


3. Federal Detailed Agenda coming Thursday

On Thursday we will release the Detailed Agenda for the 2021 State of Reform Federal Health Policy Conference. That is a list of over 100 speakers lined up to help sort through the future of federal health policy — and state-based innovations — during the upcoming Biden administration. This will be perhaps the single best way to interact directly with the actors shaping federal health policy, like Senate Finance Committee Chairman, Sen. Ron Wyden, who will be one of our keynote speakers this year.

Be sure to check out the Topical Agenda to get a feel for the two-day event and take a look at our Convening Panel to see some of the folks who helped put the agenda together. If you haven’t registered to be with us yet, we’d be honored to have you join us! And, because we’re new to your inbox, readers of this newsletter will get a 50% off of registration for this event for the next two weeks…


4. Mercy Hospital may stay afloat

Chicago’s oldest hospital may not close after all. Trinity Health, which owns Mercy Hospital in south Chicago, has entered a non-binding agreement with Insight Chicago that could keep the hospital open.

After a state review board denied the initial closure in December, Rep. Camille Lilly filed a bill that would prevent all hospital closures in the state for three years. The news comes as a relief to many who had feared the closure of the hospital – which serves primarily Black, low-income, and elderly individuals – would result in a health care desert in the South Side.


5. Telehealth bills draw support

A coalition of health-care and patient-advocate groups have announced their support of HB 3498, a bipartisan bill that would ensure telehealth is treated the same as in-person visits in terms of coverage and payments from insurers. The bill gained five new co-sponsors yesterday. Another telehealth bill, which was assigned to the Senate Licensed Activities Committee last week, would allow optometrists to provide telehealth services.

These are just two of the 78 health-related bills that have been referred to the health committees and subcommittees in the Illinois General Assembly. We have a roundup here of the 22 bills in the Senate and 56 bills in the House in committee that cover a range of issues from universal health care to changes in Medicaid coverage and reimbursement calculations.