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Lawmakers clear major healthcare reforms — but no decisive action taken on Illinois budget

SPRINGFIELD — Amid behind-the-scenes squabbles and with final drafts still in flux, lawmakers on Saturday cleared two key healthcare reforms but have taken no decisive floor action on three key budget bills.

The Illinois House approved the Healthcare Protection Act and another measure that targets “junk” insurance plans and step therapy. The healthcare reform bills, which were among Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s top spring session legislative priorities, ban costly short-term insurance plans that don’t cover preexisting conditions and prohibit the practice of requiring patients to try cheaper treatment options before more expensive ones prescribed by doctors.

The Healthcare Protection Act would require insurance providers to cover all pregnancy, postpartum and newborn care services rendered by doulas or midwives. That coverage would apply for at least one year after birth.

Lt Gov. Juliana Stratton, who had advocated for the measure, called it a “lifesaving, family-saving bill.” The legislation was part of a larger effort to enhance birth equity across the state, especially in underserved communities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women.

“My heart is with our Black mothers in particular, who, for too long, have felt the lingering shadow of fear as they welcome new life into the world,” Stratton said after its passage. Both measures now head to Pritzker’s desk for approval.

Friday marked a self-imposed adjournment date for lawmakers — but neither the revenue, appropriations or budget implementation measures had been brought to the floor by either the House or Senate by 8 p.m. on Saturday. A subject matter hearing on the revenue plan was underway on Saturday night.

Drafting errors, or exclusions, were among some of the excuses for the delay. But the revenue measure’s controversial sports betting taxes remained a point of contention throughout the day. In addition to a graduated tax rate system on sportsbooks to generate an estimated $200 million, an extra 1% tax on video gaming terminals was tacked onto the measure — prompting immediate pushback. Video gaming lobbyists spent much of Saturday trying to negotiate their way out of the tax.

The latest revenue measure structured the graduated rate at 20% to 40%, depending on adjusted gross sports wagering receipts. The tax generated would be shared between the state’s capital and revenue funds.

Meanwhile, Senate changes to an approved House measure that would reform the embattled Illinois Prisoner Review Board ruffled some feathers in the governor’s office.

The initial plan — in response to the killing of 11-year-old Jayden Perkins — would require board members to complete an annual training program about domestic violence and for board members to notify any registered victims of a crime when the offender of such crime is being released from state custody, among other reforms.

It would also require the board to indicate whether any reports included prior convictions of a domestic violence offense within the last five years — and would set up a task force to make recommendations to the General Assembly.

Senate changes included making all hearings available to the public for live broadcast on the board’s website and available to watch for a minimum of 18 months.

The governor’s office does not support that aspect, arguing it would require new technology and additional staffing. The office is instead pushing for the issue to be delayed and taken up by the newly set up task force. They are also concerned about the bill’s reliance on information from a Law Enforcement Agencies Data System, or LEADS report, which may not be up-to-date and may not include the information they’re seeking. Pritzker’s office has also argued that some of the sought reforms are already “standard practice.”

“The PRB is committed to increasing transparency. Hearings are currently open and records of the hearings are available via FOIA,” governor’s office spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said in a statement. “It is an immense challenge to do nearly 5,000 parole revocation hearings a year and we would prefer to be a part of the conversation on how best to increase transparency instead of having requirements the board will not be able to fulfill foisted upon them.”

The House sponsor, State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, said she would have preferred to work on some of the Senate’s proposals within the newly formed task force, but said she will not oppose the new changes.

The governor’s office, however, said on Saturday that it is working on an executive order that would mirror the changes enacted in the House measure.

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