May 26, 2020
Early Sunday morning (May 24), the Illinois General Assembly adjourned an extraordinary and unprecedented special session during the COVID-19 pandemic. What is normally a five-month spring session was compressed into four days. Considering the challenging environment and circumstances, this was a successful spring session for the hospital community. Among the key achievements:
- Authorization of Phase 2 of the Hospital Assessment Program – the $3.8 billion program, to take effect July 1, 2020, includes a net annual gain of $449 million for hospitals and health systems and $150 million for transformation projects – financed with $103 million in new state General Revenue Funds despite added pressure on the State budget due to the pandemic;
- Also, as part of the assessment legislation, IHA mitigated proposals to impose punitive financial penalties and onerous restrictions on hospital closures to make them reasonable and workable;
- A new state budget for FY2021 that does not include any Medicaid cuts; and
- Bi-partisan agreements on workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance; concerning a rebuttable presumption for workers contracting COVID-19, employers and unions agreed to legislation that would provide more balance for employers wanting to challenge COVID-19 claims; for non-profit hospitals that are unemployment insurance reimbursable employers, legislation was passed that authorizes 50% reimbursement for unemployment charges from March 15 to December 31 for direct or indirect COVID-triggered unemployment.
At the same time, two issues that IHA had pushed for in the special session – telehealth and liability protection, were not resolved. Given the extreme time constraints, legislative leaders structured the special session to focus only on enacting legislation that had bi-partisan support and consensus agreement of all key stakeholders, leaving very little time for negotiations with lawmakers and stakeholders.
IHA’s requested language to codify and extend the Governor’s Executive Order on telehealth reimbursement and prior authorization successfully passed the House by a vote of 113-0 (Senate Bill 671). Strong opposition from insurers stalled the measure in the Senate, and IHA defeated a last minute attempt by insurers to pass an unacceptable telehealth bill. However, state lawmakers did authorize the Department of Healthcare and Family Services to continue to pay for telehealth services for up to 12 months after the COVID-19 public health emergency ends.
IHA also aggressively pushed for legislation to retroactively extend and codify the Governor’s Executive Order on civil liability protections for healthcare facilities and providers to the start of the COVID-19 public health emergency. However, strong opposition from trial lawyers stalled that effort.
We greatly appreciate the IHA Board of Trustees for their leadership and guidance and our members for their strong support and advocacy that enabled IHA and the hospital community to work together to address the many difficult issues we faced during this highly unusual legislative session.