5 Things Illinois: Opioid Overdose Reduction Act, Vaccine rollout, Federal health reform

This monthly market and policy intelligence newsletter tries to tee up a few forward-looking topics to help inform your organization’s decision making. Not all of these items will apply to every health care silo. The sector is diverse. So we try to bring a diverse set of things that we think are worth knowing about to our readers in Illinois.

So, we’re honored to be in your inbox and hope you’ll continue to read our stuff. And, if you have a colleague or two that you think would be interested in reading about Illinois health care and health policy, have them subscribe here to our Illinois list or any of our other states we cover.

Thanks for letting us play this role in Illinois health care. We appreciate it.





With help from Emily Boerger

1. Overdose victim’s father hopes legislation will “prevent future tragedies”

Illinois’ Opioid Overdose Reduction Act, also referred to as “Alex’s Law,” would ensure that a person seeking medical assistance for an opioid overdose would not be criminally charged or prosecuted. The bill is named after Alex Green, a 25-year-old who died of a fentanyl overdose at a gas station in the outskirts of Chicago. Alex’s father, who has helped push the bill through the legislature, told State of Reform he hopes the bill can prevent future tragedies.

Provisional data from the CDC estimates drug overdoses increased over 30% in Illinois between September 2019 to 2020, and a recent study estimates over 75% of opioid overdose deaths in Illinois occur before emergency personnel can reach a patient. Alex’s law is awaiting a full vote in the House.


2. CMS approves postpartum Medicaid coverage

Last week during Black Maternal Health Week, Illinois became the first U.S. state to provide its residents with 12 months of postpartum Medicaid coverage. The bill that approved the extension was signed into law in 2019, though the state needed approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in order for it to go into effect. The approval was received last week.

The change comes as part of a larger effort in the state to address maternal mortality, especially among Black mothers. A 2018 report found that in Illinois, Black women are six times as likely to die of a pregnancy-related condition than their white counterparts.  Nationally, more than 60% of all pregnancy-related deaths are considered to be preventable with proper health care. Last week, the Biden administration announced a national effort to reduce maternal mortality among Black mothers.


3. Health officials gear up for tough stage of vaccine rollout

While the state has so far administered over 8 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, Illinois health officials warned on Monday they are gearing up for tough months ahead. Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said the 42% of the population who have received at least one dose of the vaccine are “low hanging fruit,” as they are for the most part people who were actively seeking out the vaccine.

“For the rest of this journey we really have to get into this intense ground game. That involves educating groups that are hesitant for so many different kinds of reasons and understanding what those specific reasons are, and meeting people where they are,” she said. Dan Fulwiler, CEO of Esperanza Health Centers, says the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine was especially beneficial for underserved communities. He’s hopeful and confident that the vaccine will return to circulation.


4. 65% of uninsured Illinoisans eligible for Medicaid or ACA subsidies

According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) analysis, 65% of the uninsured individuals in Illinois are already eligible for Medicaid/other public assistance or are eligible for ACA subsidies. Broken down, 37% qualify for Medicaid/CHIP and other public programs, and 28% qualify for subsidized ACA coverage.

The analysis takes into account the expanded subsidy structure put in place through the American Rescue Plan Act, which KFF estimates has increased the number of people eligible for subsidized Marketplace coverage by 20%. The analysis also finds that 17% of the uninsured population are ineligible for financial assistance due to citizenship.


5. Members of Congress discuss health reform

During our recent 2021 State of Reform Federal Health Policy Conference, we saw a glimpse of the subtle tension that exists within the House Democratic and Republican caucuses in the US Congress. It’s worth flagging for you here. During our Congressional Democrats panel, Oregon’s Rep. Earl Blumenauer said now is the time for Democrats to think bigger and make substantial changes to health care without getting “paralyzed” by complexity. Washington State’s Rep. Kim Schrier offered a more moderate take and stressed her constituents’ weariness to large scale changes to their health care.

During our Congressional Republicans panel, I had the opportunity to speak with three members of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, hailing from Georgia, Texas and Michigan. They each brought a unique perspective to our discussion on bipartisanship, COVID-19, infrastructure, and health reform. The full video of our conversation is available here.