In 2011, AARP Illinois focused its state legislative efforts on fighting unfair utility rates increases, protecting financial security, preserving funding for senior services, and implementing health care reform at the state level.
See Also: Hold your elected officials accountable
See below for more information on the status of AARP Illinois’ 2011 state legislative priorities. Follow the status of these bills online.
Senate Bill 1652
This bill, backed by ComEd and Ameren, narrowly passed the House and Senate, but Governor Quinn has vowed to veto the bill. AARP was strongly opposed to the legislation which will result in annual utility rate increases for consumers across the state. Under the guise of “modernization”, ComEd and Ameren are simply trying to write higher corporate profits into state law. AARP worked with Governor Quinn, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the Illinois Commerce Commission, the Citizens Utility Board and the Environmental Law & Policy Center to oppose the bill and the groups will continue to fight the legislation to ensure that the interests of consumers are protected.
House Bill 1689
Nationally, financial exploitation costs victims more than $2.6 billion every year. AARP Illinois supported House Bill 1689 which will increase penalties associated with financial exploitation of the elderly in the state. Prior to the bill’s passage, individuals convicted of financial exploitation, even in severe cases, were not adequately penalized. The final bill, which has been sent to Governor Quinn for his signature, created a Class 1 felony for financial exploitation in the amount of $50,000 or more (the current level is $100,000). The bill also established criminal restitution in the Unified Code of Corrections for all levels of elder financial abuse.
House Bill 96/Senate Bill 144
AARP actively lobbied for the passage of House Bill 96 and Senate Bill 144. These bills would have repealed the Social Security Unemployment Offset law in Illinois – an unemployment insurance law that classifies one-half of older adults’ Social Security payment as disqualifying income for purposes of receiving unemployment benefits. This discriminatory law has been repealed in 48 other states. If passed, these bills would allow eligible older workers to fully collect the unemployment benefits they are due. While the bill did not pass before the end of session, AARP will be actively pushing for the bills’ passage during Veto Session in October 2011.
House Bill 224
The General Assembly passed this AARP-supported bill which will allow for an independent review of health insurance claim denials based on a preexisting condition. The bill, which is awaiting the Governor’s signature, will also allow a review of health insurance rescissions – where individuals who have health care coverage are suddenly dropped when they become sick or are in need of care. Illinois currently has the highest rate of health insurance rescissions in the nation.
House Bill 1555
This bill, which has been sent to the Governor for signature, ensures that a health insurance exchange (as outlined in the federal Affordable Care Act) will be established in Illinois beginning on October 1, 2013. The bill establishes a legislative study committee that will make recommendations to the General Assembly regarding the governance and financial sustainability of the exchange in Illinois. AARP will continue to work on this and other legislative efforts related to the implementation of the federal health care reform law.
House Bill 1530
This bill, supported by AARP and passed by the General Assembly, prohibits all group health insurance policies from imposing financial requirements (e.g., deductibles, co-payments, or co insurance) or treatment limitations (e.g., limits on the frequency of treatment, number of visits, or days of coverage) for the treatment of mental health or substance use disorders that are more restrictive than those applied to medical and surgical benefits.
In addition to the legislation mentioned above, AARP also took an active role in protecting funding for home and community based senior services. Thanks to the efforts of AARP and other advocacy groups, a critical pharmaceutical assistance program that was eliminated in the Governor’s budget was restored by 50%.
Funding for the state’s Community Care Program – a program that provides home services to seniors – was increased by 20%. AARP was also instrumental in fighting two legislative attempts to roll back a nursing home reform bill passed last year that provides greater protections for nursing home residents.