A Win Amidst Statehouse Struggles
With the ICS initiated Senate Bill 1229 on its way to the Governor, we will be seeing our seventh piece of ICS-originated pro-chiropractic legislation passed in Illinois in only six years. Passing any legislation in recent years is noteworthy, simply due to the political climate and gridlock.
When I finished my graduate work in political studies, the question everyone asked was: “How much longer before you run for office?” My answer was always the same: “Never.” I will not claim that being a legislator is an easy job; even if you strip away all of the money and political gamesmanship, the answers are rarely clear. Elected officials ask themselves regularly, “Was I elected to simply vote the will of my constituents? Or did the voters pick me to take a hard look at the difficult issues, carefully evaluate all the information available and entrust me to make my own judgment calls on their behalf? Was I elected on the strength of my personal convictions and so I should hold steadfast to certain positions as non-negotiable, because I refuse to let the system change me?”
Now, look our great State of Illinois–a state so top heavy that 10 million of our over 12 million population live in the Chicago Metro area. Political scientists have traditionally ranked Illinois as having some of the most prolific and active state legislatures in America (alongside CA and NY). We not only have a history of corruption, but lasting political legacies (the Daleys, the Madigans) and lay claim to Presidents Lincoln, Grant, Reagan and Obama. But why take the time to point this out? To help illustrate the difficulties our State is facing right now.
It is much easier to simply point fingers at “corrupt, do-nothing politicians” rather than taking the time to understand the underlying issues. Illinois has been dealing with a number of heavy topics at the Statehouse, and there are rarely any easy answers. Especially when making those tough decisions, you are likely going to make those same voters who complain that you “won’t do anything” angry when you do take action and they’re faced with the outcomes.
According to some analysts, our pension problems have been well known and developing over the last 65 years. At the 1969 Constitutional Convention, the thought was that if they banned legislators from cutting pension benefits, they would be forced to deal with the pension shortfalls ‘soon.’ In the 1990s Gov. Edgar put a 50-year plan in place – yet payments were still skipped, and then the stock markets crashed. According to The Pew Center on the States, the total shortfall in Illinois’ state pensions is estimated to be $1.38 trillion. Now legislators must address that reality without raising taxes, angering voters, or gutting what has been already promised to our teachers, police officers and firefighters which may be unconstitutional.
Illinois was given a court-imposed deadline to pass concealed carry gun legislation by June 9th. This mandated deadline comes at the same time as a push for tighter gun control regulations in the wake of a renewed national focus on gun violence. Additionally, many polls show that a majority of the population-dense Chicago metro area citizens support stricter gun control legislation. Legislators are attempting to pass a single comprehensive gun reform package, which means including a constitutional law permitting concealed carry, while still appeasing voters who want more control.
On May 20th, 2011, Gallup reported that for the first time a majority of Americans favored marriage equality. At the time of this writing, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Minnesota have all signed a same-sex marriage bill into law this year, and many expect Illinois and California to join them. The bill has already passed the Illinois State Senate, and it is close in the House. The issue is proving to be divisive among Republicans, where the party chairman was more or less pushed out due to voicing public support for marriage equality. The communities represented by the 20-member House Black Caucus are facing intense pressures from local church groups to stand against the issue. Furthermore, some in leadership are staying out of the marriage debate to keep focused on the pension issue. Same-sex marriage continues to be a complicated and multifaceted issue for many legislators.
With so much time being taken up by the hot button issues above, it’s easy to forget about other weighty issues being considered at the legislature:
- Predictions are that this is the year that Representative Lou Lang finally moves his House Bill 1 (Medical Marijuana) to the Governor’s desk;
- There has been much debate over updating the energy grid system and a rewrite of telecommunications laws in Illinois;
- A March report by the American Society of Civil Engineers estimated that $3.6 trillion would be needed to improve the near-failing country and state roadways;
- About 67% of Illinois schools will experience deficits this fiscal year, up from 48% last year; and
- Illinois has started down the path of establishing a state-federal partnership for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (State-Based Health Insurance Exchange or Insurance Marketplace), which has essentially put a majority of healthcare or insurance reform issues on hold until after the new program is established.
Needless to say, legislators are in the midst of several highly charged and controversial fiscal, social and infrastructure issues. For these reasons and more, my answer to the “Will you run?” question remains, “Never!”
ICS Legislative Action
The ICS has had success working with the Dietitians and Nutritionists this year to alleviate a number of our doctors’ concerns over our ability to utilize nutritional counseling and supplements. Based on our own bill, SB 1229 which clearly placed Medically Prescribed Diets within our scope, as well as having made some other clarifying language, has passed both chambers and is on its way to the Governor’s desk for his signature. The ICS will continue to work tirelessly on our doctors’ behalf and looks forward to another successful session next year.
In the face of the tumultuous legislative climate in Springfield, the ICS is continuing to work on resolving a number of insurance-related problems our doctors face, and we have recently gained the support of groups such as the Illinois Hospital Association on several of our issues. The ICS is striving to clarify confusion with various aspects of the Explanation of Benefits and Remittance Advice paperwork, and we are working to reduce the unreasonably high copays our doctors’ patients face from many insurance companies. Additionally, we have a third bill addressing the lax attitudes insurers take towards verification of benefits by attempting to require that when an insurer verifies benefits, it is final and binding.
A large part of understanding the political process is trying to understand the various forces at work at the Statehouse, pulling legislators in a variety of directions at all times. The ICS works with a number of groups to help monitor these political currents. We stay in constant contact with many other health care groups and governmental agencies. We are members of the Business Industry Federation of Economic Concern and the Illinois Society of Association Executives. Nationally, we belong to the American Chiropractic Association, the Congress of Chiropractic State Associations, and the American Society of Association Executives. These affiliations and countless meetings help us to keep a broad view of the political landscape. This way we always know how to best protect and promote chiropractic and seize every opportunity. We continue to work on educating legislators and governmental bodies regarding the capability and scope of chiropractic physicians, as well as federal non-discrimination legislation, which will become law beginning in 2014.