What is ‘Non-medical Switching’ of Prescriptions?

Under current Illinois law, there’s nothing that prevents coverage changes during the course of the policy year when participants are locked into their plans. These midyear changes in coverage often cause “non-medical switching” – the practice in which stable patients are forced off their original medications, regardless of clinician recommendations and health consequences.

RHA joined with partners to support legislation that prevents insurers from changing co-pays or coverage of medicines during a plan year. The legislation, HB 4146, passed the Illinois House Insurance: Health and Life committee and awaits a hearing of the full House of Representatives.

medical drugs close up

The issue of non-medical switching was brought to our attention by our friends at University of Illinois at Chicago pharmacy.  Many patients with chronic health issues, including respiratory diseases, are being forced off their current medications or prices shift for their medication. When these changes occur, other drugs may not control their symptoms adequately.

“Medical care is not one-size-fits-all,” said Matt Maloney, Director of Health Policy at Respiratory Health Association. “Making coverage decisions based solely on cost and forcing patients to change can cause unnecessary anxiety, all while ignoring the complexities that inform a patient’s individual care plan.”

We believe that when families in Illinois carefully shop for a health plan that covers the benefits they need, they should be guaranteed the coverage they signed up for the duration of the policy year.

It is especially important that patients who rely on medications to keep their health stable can purchase insurance coverage without fear that their benefits will be changed or be eliminated during the policy year.

HB 4146 is sponsored by State Representative Laura Fine and has bipartisan support with more than 50 other co-sponsors.

Want to help RHA’s legislative efforts? Join our Advocacy Champions group to make your voice heard.

RHA heads to Springfield to make our voices heard!

RHA’s annual State Lung Health Education Day gives advocates the opportunity to visit Springfield and gather support for lung-friendly initiatives. For seasoned advocates and newcomers alike, we want to empower you to speak up for lung health. Just sharing your story can be enough to influence policy and improve lives for years to come.

 

This year’s trip took place Wednesday, April 18, 2018.

lung health advocates meet with legislators

Lung health advocates visit legislators.

The full day event includes a coach bus ride from Chicago to Springfield, advocacy training, a tour of the Capitol building, meetings with legislators, and a sit-down lunch with special guest speakers.

 

This year, we talked to our legislators about:

 

Raising the minimum legal sales age of tobacco products from 18 to 21, or Tobacco 21, is a fast growing, nationally recognized youth tobacco prevention strategy that has been adopted in 20 Illinois communities and we are pushing it statewide. Most smokers (95%) begin smoking before age 21. By getting young people past that critical threshold for brain development and addiction, we can dramatically lower the number of people who start smoking and become addicted to smoking. This will lower smoking rates, prevent disease and save long-term health care costs.

 

Asthma is a significant public health issue in Illinois, impacting educational outcomes, quality of life, productivity and health care costs. SB3015 would improve access to live-saving medication by allowing schools to maintain a stock of asthma rescue medication. Improving access to asthma rescue medication (Albuterol) would reduce school absences, hospitalizations and long term healthcare costs, improve health outcomes, and save lives. 

 

  • Protecting Illinoisans from Unfair Coverage Changes (House Bill 4146)

Families in Illinois carefully shop for a health plan that covers the benefits they need when they are locked into their plan. Midyear reductions in coverage often cause “non-medical switching” – the practice in which stable patients are forced off their original medications, regardless of clinician recommendations and health consequences. Patients who rely on medications to keep their health stable should be able to shop for coverage without fear that their benefits will be changed or eliminated during the policy year. House Bill 4146 would protect against unfair pharmacy coverage reductions during the course of the policy year.

 

Thank you to everyone who joined us in Springfield this year!

Follow RHA on Flickr to see great images from State Lung Health Education Day and other RHA events.

Decreasing youth tobacco use across Illinois

With the support of RHA and other organizations, State Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) and State Rep. Camille Lilly (D-Oak Park) have introduced legislation to raise the minimum age for tobacco sales in Illinois from 18 to 21.

Known commonly as Tobacco 21, the effort aims to curb youth smoking, which will lead to fewer adult smokers in the future and result in substantial long-term health care savings.

“Statistics show that 95 percent of smokers start before the age of 21,” said Matt Maloney, director of health policy for Respiratory Health Association. “By raising the age of sale for tobacco to 21, Illinois will greatly reduce smoking among high school children.”

“Our goal is to create the first smoke-free generation,” said Joel Africk, President and Chief Executive Officer of Respiratory Health Association. “Tobacco 21 gives us a great chance of making that happen.”

Each year in Illinois, 5700 teens under the age of 18 become new daily smokers. If these rates persist, 230,000 Illinois teens alive today will die prematurely from smoking.

The economic impact of smoking is staggering. Each year, tobacco use costs Illinois $5.49 billion in health care costs and $5.27 billion in lost productivity, according to research from the Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids. “By reducing youth smoking, we can make a meaningful change in the adult smoking rate and reduce these staggering costs,” said Africk.

Nearly 300 cities across 16 states, plus the states of California, Hawaii, New Jersey, Maine and Oregon have enacted Tobacco 21 laws. In Illinois, Tobacco 21 has been adopted by Evanston, Chicago, Oak Park, Deerfield, Highland Park, Naperville, Maywood, Lincolnshire, Vernon Hills, Berwyn, Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove Village, Mundelein, and unincorporated Lake County, and it is being considered by dozens more communities.

Public support for Tobacco 21 gives a big boost to this year’s legislative effort.  New polling data shows that 65 percent of registered Illinois voters support Tobacco 21. With your advocacy and support we can continue to gain ground.

To join our efforts to pass statewide Tobacco 21 and create a smoke-free generation, take a few clicks to email your local lawmakers.

Save the Date – State Lung Health Education Day is April 18

On April 18th we’re bringing a busload of volunteers down to Springfield to meet with state lawmakers and educate them on lung disease and efforts to improve lung health. Whether you’re a seasoned advocate or a newcomer we want to empower you to speak up for lung health. Just sharing your story can be enough to influence policy and improve lives for years to come. The full day event includes a coach bus ride from Chicago to the Statehouse, advocacy training, a tour of the Capitol building, meetings with legislators, and a sit down lunch with special guest speakers. Email Matt Maloney at mmaloney@lungchicago.org to reserve your seat on the bus.

PROTECT THE ILLINOIS CLEAN AIR LAW

NO ROLLBACKS FOR OUR STATE’S BIGGEST POLLUTER!

Governor Rauner’s EPA is poised to eliminate air pollution safeguards that would allow THOUSANDS MORE TONS of air pollution into the air you breathe every year.

According to today’s Chicago Tribune, Illinois EPA and the state’s largest polluter, Dynegy. Inc. have been rewriting Illinois air pollution laws in secret since last year, and are now poised to propose a massive increase in how much pollution Dynegy’s EIGHT huge ancient coal power plants in Illinois would be able to emit.

HOW MUCH?

As much as 10,000 TONS more smog and soot pollution than they are emitting now.

WHEN?

As early as NEXT YEAR.

WHY?

The most likely reason is that Dynegy wants to run its cleanest coal plants – the ones equipped with modern pollution scrubbing equipment – LESS often, and wants to run its dirtiest most polluting coal power plants MORE. They could make more money by running their cheaper dirtier power plants, but YOU will wind up paying the price.

Whatever rollbacks the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Dynegy are able to force through will eventually have to get approval from state legislators before Dynegy would be allowed to run its dirtiest coal power plants more oftern – so YOUR legislators can help stop this attack on clean air.

You can take action! RHA has prepared an email that encourages legislators not to approve these rollbacks. Our e-advocacy system makes it easy for you to send the email directly to Governor Rauner and your legislators. Send your emails now.

For more information about RHA’s clean air initiatives, contact Brian Urbaszewski via email at burbaszewski@lungchicago.org or by phone at (312) 628-0245.

 

Celebrating Tobacco 21 Success

Village of Maywood is recognized for raising tobacco purchase age.

RHA has presented the Village of Maywood with a Lung Health Champion award in recognition of its trailblazing Tobacco 21 ordinance. In May, the Village Board unanimously voted to raise the minimum legal age for tobacco product sales in the village from 18 to 21. The ordinance took effect immediately.

“Someone has to step up and take a stand and we, the village of Maywood have taken one… it’s to save a generation that’s coming behind us,” said Mayor Edwina Perkins at the time of enactment. The Institute of Medicine projects that Tobacco 21 could reduce overall smoking by 12 percent by the time today’s teenagers become adults.

It’s been a busy summer for Tobacco 21 advocates. In addition to Maywood, the villages of Berwyn, Buffalo Grove, Lincolnshire and Vernon Hills have adopted ordinances, bringing the total number of municipalities in Illinois to 11. This week, Lake County became the first in Illinois to raise the minimum age to buy cigarettes, tobacco products and electronic cigarettes to 21 in unincorporated areas of the county.

Want to bring a Tobacco 21 ordinance to your community? Contact Matt Maloney, RHA’s Director of Health Policy, via email at mmaloney@lungchicago.org or by phone at (312) 628-0233.

Tobacco 21 from Cook County Public Health on Vimeo.

COMMEMORATING A CLEAN AIR MILESTONE

Fisk & Crawford Coal-Fired Power Plants Closed August 2012.

 

Five years ago this month, Respiratory Health Association helped secure the closure of Chicago’s two biggest polluters, the coal-fired Fisk power plant located in Pilsen and the Crawford plant in Little Village.

Together they emitted thousands of tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) every year, forming ozone smog and fine particle pollution. Their closures have saved an estimated 210 lives, prevented 330 heart attacks and avoided 3,600 pollution-caused asthma attacks – notable health victories worth celebrating at this five-year anniversary mark.

Years of effort by RHA’s staff and advocates as well as our Chicago Clean Power Coalition partners, working with the Chicago City Council and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, made these victories possible.

Of course, once the confetti was swept up we got right back to work.

 

Since that time we have achieved additional air quality improvements through our clean energy policy work and by educating individuals, business leaders and elected officials about clean-running vehicles and clean construction policies. Last year, RHA helped pass the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA), making Illinois a nationwide leader in clean energy by expanding clean renewable solar and wind energy, reducing the use of coal and enacting better energy efficiency policies, all of which will lead to cleaner air.

Unfortunately, dirty coal plants continue to operate in Lake and Will counties as well as downstate, degrading air quality across the region. We are continuing our long-term legal and policy change strategies to combat these polluters. You can help RHA achieve our vision of clean air for all: donate now and sign up for RHA’s e-advocacy team to be part of our efforts.