IHA Daily Briefing: Feb. 5

Chicago Business Group Calls for Major Cuts, Tax Hikes
Illinois Receives Failing Grades for Tobacco Control
Measles Still Active in the U.S.
Brief Discusses Employer-Based Health Coverage

Chicago Business Group Calls for Major Cuts, Tax Hikes
An influential business group, the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, is calling for major spending cuts and increased revenues to address the state’s fiscal problems. The report, called “Restore Illinois: A Foundation for Growth”, urges state government to achieve an $8 billion annual target through $2 billion in expenditure reductions and $6 billion in revenue increases during fiscal years (FY) 2020-2024. Among the proposals are recommendations to better align the state employee group health insurance plan with the private sector (to save $500 million), reduce state spending through operational improvements, and raise revenues through tax changes, including raising the income tax by 1 percentage point to 5.95 percent and taxing retirement income.

“Illinois needs to repair its fiscal condition which is the biggest impediment to the strong economic and job growth our State needs,” said Jay Henderson, Chairman of the Civic Committee’s Tax Policy Task Force. “It is a solvable problem and we have laid out a five-year framework that does it.”

The Civic Committee plan includes several major goals:

  • Eliminating the state budget deficit (projected to reach $3.4 billion in 2021) and unpaid bills (approximately $7.8 billion by the end of FY 2019);
  • Tackling the State’s unfunded pension liabilities of roughly $130 billion; and
  • Establishing a reserve fund of $4-5 billion.

The report also recommends additional reforms, focusing on three areas:

  • Improving transparency and promoting coordination and consolidation among Illinois’ local units of government;
  • Monitoring the State’s new education funding formula (Senate Bill 1947) to ensure it is fair and equitable for all students, and meeting the $350 million annual funding target; and
  • Aligning Illinois workers’ compensation provisions with best practices from other states.

“Resolving Illinois’ fiscal crisis and restoring confidence in our state is within reach,” said Scott Santi, Chairman of the Commercial Club of Chicago. “It will require facing the reality of the situation, making tough decisions and sacrifices, and then sticking to a plan.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker will deliver his first budget and State of the State address on Feb. 20.

Illinois Receives Failing Grades for Tobacco Control
The 17th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report issued by the American Lung Association revealed failing grades on Illinois’ efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use. The report grades states and the federal government on policies proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use and gave Illinois the following:

  • Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – F
  • Strength of Smoke-free Workplace Laws - A
  • Level of State Tobacco Taxes - F
  • Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco - F
  • Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – F

The American Lung Association finds that elected officials must do more to save lives and ensure all Illinois residents benefit from reductions in tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.

"In Illinois, our smoking rates remain at 15.5 percent and tobacco use remains the state's leading cause of preventable death and disease, killing more than 18,000 people per year. We need to invest in proven measures to prevent and reduce tobacco use such as raising the legal sales age of tobacco products," said Kathy Drea from the American Lung Association.

Unlike the state, Chicago received positive grades for its progressive efforts to reduce tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke:

  • Smoke-free Air: A
  • Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21: A
  • Local Tobacco Taxes: A

The report calls on state legislators and Governor J.B. Pritzker to take action to raise the statewide minimum sales age for tobacco, including e-cigarettes, to 21.

An American Lung Association press release summarizes nationwide findings.

Measles Still Active in the U.S.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a measles outbreak update covering January data. Last month, 79 cases of the measles have been confirmed in 10 states, including Illinois. Last year, 372 cases were reported from 17 outbreaks, including three in New York City, New York state and New Jersey.

The CDC said that the majority of people who got the measles were unvaccinated. Many of the outbreaks are associated with travelers who brought the disease back from international travel where outbreaks are occurring.

The U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, M.D. is featured in a U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services video discussing measles transmission, symptoms and prevention.

Brief Discusses Employer-Based Health Coverage
A Peterson-Kaiser Health System Tracker brief examines the Long-Term Trends in Employer-Based Coverage. Using data from the National Health Interview Survey, Peterson-Kaiser found that the share of the nonelderly with employer-sponsored health insurance fell by almost 9 percentage points between 1999 and 2017, with a large percentage of reductions generally happening in income groups below 400 percent of poverty. Coverage fell from 159.4 million in 1999 to 156.3 million in 2017. During that timeframe, the nonelderly population grew by 31.5 million people.

The authors suggest that one potential reason for the drop in employer-sponsored coverage is due to decline of workers who are offered coverage at their jobs, specifically for employees working for companies with less than 50 people.