Here's your weekly rundown of what's going down in Springfield this week. It's a busy time in "The Patch" as bill sponsors step up, bill language is drafted, and everything gets submitted to the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) post-haste. Here's what AARP Illinois Staffers are tracking on this session....
Long Term Care - Issue Lead Dave
--A Long Term Care Disparity Bill
*NEW* This week the bill got a name ( SB2773). Now we can track it at the I llinois General Assembly Website aka "ILGA" Our Springfield staffers spend more time with "ILGA" than they do with their significant others during legislative session ;)
Who it helps: This bill establishes a task force to examine whether there are differences in quality of care and access to care in Illinois' Long Term Care System based on a number of factors including rural vs. urban, dominant race/ethnicity, dominant language. This legislation builds upon a previous study of racial disparities found in Chicago nursing homes.
--FMLA Expansion to Grandparents and Grandchildren
*NEW* This bill also got a name. Welcome to the world HB4272! Happy tracking.
Who it helps: This bill would allow grandparents who are caring for grandchildren as well as grandchildren who are caring for grandparents to be eligible for FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) benefits - a law which allows workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off of work to care for a family member - without the risk of losing their job. Previously, grandparents and grandchildren were not specifically protected by FMLA in Illinois. AARP is partnering with the Aging Justice Program of Chicago on this work.
Who it helps: This bill provides for better training for family caregivers, so they are better able to care for their loved ones when they return home from the hospital. It allows medical records to include the name of a patient's primary family caregiver, so that hospitals know to talk to that person, keep them in the loop, and make sure they are trained and up to speed on all necessary follow up care needed upon discharge. A considerable number of family caregivers who provide medical care at home for their loved ones simply feel unprepared to perform medical tasks.
*NEW* Health Care - Issue Lead Jen
--State Based Health Insurance Marketplace
As the "consumer voice" at the table, AARP Illinois has been participating in weekly meetings with a diverse coalition of stakeholders including legislators, nonprofits, and interest groups to take a look at creating a State-Based Marketplace for Health Insurance - the Marketplace is the online "shopping center" where people can go to compare health insurance plans and purchase coverage . In 2014, Illinois is sharing responsibility for operating the Marketplace in Illinois with the Federal Government. However, if Illinois wants to receive federal funding to run the Marketplace on its own, Illinois will need to submit a plan by December 31st 2014.
Who it helps: The Marketplace is a new way to find quality health coverage. It can help if you don’t have coverage now or if you have coverage, but want to look at other options.With one Marketplace application, you can learn if you qualify for lower cost coverage based on your income, compare your coverage options side-by-side, and enroll. It is up and running now so check it out. If you live in Illinois, check out Get Covered Illinois. Illinois is also hosting a slew of in person events if you have more questions.
Financial Security - Issue Lead Laurinda
--Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program (SB2758/HB4595)
Who it helps: This bill would provide all private-sector workers in Illinois who do not currently have access to a retirement savings option at work, with employment-based access to a retirement savings account (an IRA). Employees of businesses who have been in business for at least two years and have at least 10 employees would be automatically enrolled to a retirement savings plan (but could opt out at any time). Only employees can contribute to their accounts, so neither taxpayers nor employers fund the program. This is the only proposed solution to our looming retirement crisis that doesn't burden government or business.
Here's hoping winter finally ends soon!