Legislative Update: February 21, 2017

Governor Rauner Delivers Annual Budget Address
Each year in February the Governor is required to present to a joint session of the Illinois House and Senate a budget address which is traditionally used as the starting point of budget negotiations for the upcoming budget year. With Illinois well into its second year without an agreed budget, Governor Rauner began his speech on Wednesday with a quote from President Abraham Lincoln: “The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion… We must think anew and act anew.”

During the 40-minute address, the Governor spoke about the bipartisan work being done in the Senate to create a balanced budget built on compromise, and said he was pleased that for the first time, legislators from both parties are standing together to say that Illinois must have structural change to grow the economy and create good jobs. He also said the ultimate budget proposal must be “a good deal for taxpayers and job creators – a grand bargain that fully balances the budget once and for all, and really moves the needle when it comes to job creation.”

You can read a copy of the speech here, and you can view the accompanying documents included in the “Budget Book” here.

Hays Bills Begin to Move through House Committee Process
House members filed a total of 3,921 bills this year prior to the February 10 deadline. Only bills filed by that date may be considered in a House committee during the 2017 spring session. House bills filed after February 10 cannot be considered this spring as independent, free-standing legislation. I filed 10 bills this year as Chief Sponsor, and have signed on as Chief Co-Sponsor or as a co-sponsor of eight others.

Following the bill introduction deadline, State Representatives spend the next six weeks vetting bills at the committee level. The House has 57 permanent and special committees that will hear testimony and consider bills. Because no piece of legislation may reach the House Floor for a final vote until it receives a positive vote at the committee level, this time of year we spend most of our time in committee meetings.

Hays to Serve on Several Key House Committees for 100th General Assembly
Committee assignments were announced a few weeks ago, and for the 100th General Assembly I will continue serving on the House Executive Committee. I enjoyed serving on the Executive Committee in the 99th General Assembly and am pleased to continue with that assignment because the most pivotal bills that come to the floor of the House are vetted through the Executive Committee. It’s an honor to have a hand in the preliminary consideration of those initiatives.

I will also be serving as the Republican Spokesperson for the Community College Access & Affordability and Public Utilities Committees. These are excellent assignments because these are issues that have a direct impact of many of my constituents in the 104th District. As the cost of a college education becomes more and more out of reach for the average Illinois family, I look forward to helping shape public policy that can hopefully ease that burden for Illinoisans. In addition to those assignments, I will also be serving on the Environment and Insurance: Property & Casualty Committees.

Hays Signs On as Chief Co-Sponsor of Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Adequacy and Transparency of Health Insurance Coverage for Illinoisans
Spotty and disjointed access to in-network health care is a real problem not only for the people of the 104th District, but in many parts of Illinois. Living in a rural area should not prevent you from having access to top-quality health care. Gaps in health plan networks mean patients can get stuck driving for hours to get the care they need. In attempt to improve adequacy and transparency to health insurance plans for Illinoisans, this year I will be serving as the lead Republican sponsor of HB 311, which offers a remedy to these and other serious problems caused by the increasing use of narrow preferred provider networks. 

HB 311 seeks to create the Illinois State Network Adequacy and Transparency Act (NATA). The legislation establishes important standards for health insurance sold in Illinois, allowing consumers to make meaningful choices about purchasing health insurance and ensuring that patients can access healthcare professionals in their network for their medical needs. At a recent press conference about the bill in Springfield, Dr. Thomas M. Anderson, President of the Illinois State Medical Society said, “This legislation is necessary because people think they are playing by the rules when purchasing health insurance, but are often in for a surprise when they try to go to a doctor. Patients may have done their homework and checked that their doctor is in-network, only to show up to their appointment and find out the insurance company website was out-of-date and they won’t get the coverage they were promised.” 

Through HB 311, which was filed identically as SB 70 in the Senate, NATA will protect Illinois patients in three ways:
  1. Insurance companies will have to make sure their networks meet patients’ needs. That means insurance plan networks must have enough doctors, including specialists, in close proximity to where their policyholders live.
  2. It will bring transparency. Patients will know which doctors are in-network. If a doctor is dropped from the network, the insurance company will have to notify patients in a timely fashion and offer an option for patients to switch plans to stay with a preferred doctor.
  3. Patient care will not be disrupted due to changes in health insurance networks. A patient’s doctor may be dropped from the network, but pregnant women or anyone with certain complex conditions will be able to stay with their doctor long enough to make a smooth transition – without getting charged extra.

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