By Jerry Nowicki
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday signed the final three bills of the 599 sent to him by the Illinois General Assembly during the spring legislative session.
Per the final tally, Pritzker signed 591 of the bills into law, while vetoing seven and sending one back to the General Assembly with an amendatory veto. The General Assembly will return in late October and early November to discuss new legislation and consider overriding any of the vetoes.
Among the final measures signed by the governor this week was the Home Energy Affordability and Transparency Act, which aims to provide greater regulation on alternative energy providers, many of whom go door to door locking customers into high energy rates.
The measure, Senate Bill 651, was an initiative of Democratic Attorney General Kwame Raoul, who said the purpose of the legislation was to take aim at alternative energy suppliers who use “sales gimmicks and misleading sales pitches” to “lure consumers into high-priced energy contracts.”
Per the new law, alternative energy suppliers will be required to provide consumers with information about rates, fees and early termination charges, and they will be required to obtain consumers’ express consent before the contract is switched from a fixed rate to a variable rate.
Suppliers must also notify customers before their rates rise, and must report their rates to the Illinois Commerce Commission and the attorney general’s office. They must also end solicitations if the consumer does not understand English.
“Illinois residents deserve to know what they’re getting into when signing up for alternative utility suppliers, and often that means high costs and deceptive practices,” Pritzker said in a news release.
Among the other bills signed by Pritzker since Friday is Senate Bill 162, which expands health insurance coverage for mammograms and other breast cancer screenings beginning Jan. 1, 2020.
When the law takes effect, private insurers and Medicaid will be required to cover mammograms, ultrasounds and MRIs when they are deemed medically necessary by a physician, advanced practice nurse or physician assistant.
State Sen. Linda Holmes, an Aurora Democrat and the bill’s Senate sponsor, said in a release the measure removes co-pays for diagnostic mammograms, which go a step beyond routine screening mammograms.
“A diagnostic mammogram should be covered in the same manner as a routine screening mammogram,” Holmes said. “About 10 percent of initial mammogram results require a subsequent diagnostic mammogram, which can arguably be the most important test in the screening process. This new law can save lives.”
The bill’s House sponsor was Jeff Keicher, a Republican from Sycamore.
The governor also signed House Bill 465, which creates a regulatory framework for pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, which negotiate drug prices and benefits on behalf of insurance plans.
Prior to the bill, PBMs went largely unregulated in Illinois and were not subject to auditing or transparency laws despite the fact that they manage public money through the Medicaid program. The new law brings PBMs under regulation by the Illinois Department of Insurance beginning Jan. 1, 2020.
The new law requires insurers to apply third-party payments, discounts, vouchers and co-pay cards to a deductible, co-pay or out-of-pocket maximum associated with health insurance; allows pharmacists to recommend less expensive drugs; and prevents the denial of emergency medical treatment.
“PBMs line their pockets at the expense of small businesses and consumers who have no choice but to buy lifesaving drugs at exorbitant prices,” state Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat and the bill’s Senate sponsor, said. “For years these middle men have been able to exert their influence on the pharmaceutical industry with essentially no oversight. It’s time to crack down on unfair practices that target some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.”
Senate Bill 1236, which takes effect immediately, requires any county board member or elected local governmental official to forfeit their salary at the beginning of their next term if they are receiving pension benefits for service as a county board member or elected officer.
Senate Bill 1726 creates the position of dementia coordinator in the Department of Public Health to oversee the implementation of the Illinois Alzheimer’s Disease State Plan beginning Jan. 1, 2020.
Senate Bill 1641 requires the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to identify and to flag college students who could be eligible to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, and to post notices that include eligibility requirements where students are likely to see them.
Senate Bill 1090 requires the attorney general to post data about public buildings that are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act each year, including the total number of open compliance investigations, the total number of complaints received and the 10 most frequent complaints.
Senate Bill 456 grants the Illinois State Board of Education the authority to suspend an educator’s license immediately if they are charged with certain crimes, including sex crimes, drug offenses, and Class X felonies. The license would be reinstated if the person is acquitted.
Capitol News Illinois file photo by Jerry Nowicki