Two important new state laws bear significant contributions from Rep. Jeanne Ives

Rep. Jeanne Ives discusses legislation with a colleague on the
floor of the Illinois House of Representatives.
I would like to take this opportunity to share two pieces of legislation with you; one that I am very proud to have initiated (HB311), one that I contributed significantly to (HB189 , section 15 of Act) and both of which I helped pass into law from the Illinois House of Representatives this year. Being a member of the minority party in the state legislature makes it more difficult to pass legislation, unless you are willing to work across the aisle to build bipartisan support for good public policy.

On his desk in the Oval Office, President Reagan kept a small plaque inscribed: “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he does not mind who gets the credit.” That motto has always been my guidepost as your State Representative. With that principle in mind, here is an update on two bills I worked hard to pass this year, both with strong bipartisan support.

Strengthening Personal Property Rights – House Bill 189

Condominium owners and families residing in homeowner associations who are battling disputes and fighting for financial transparency now have state law on their side. The Omnibus Condominium Bill, House Bill 189, is a long-awaited major rewrite of parts of the Illinois Condominium Property Act and Common Interest Association Act. This bill, which was signed into law on August 24, targets the finances of associations and will make access to documents and records easier and quicker for owners.

My input to this re-write of condo law came from constituents who were being forced out of their ownership interests by large real estate companies who wanted to return the units to rental.  Senator Connelly and I met with them and it took two years to get them some protection from a poorly written part of the existing condo act (Section 15).  While the changes we made help, they do not go far enough.  We compromised to get at least some relief, as I believe property rights are among the most important rights to protect.  

I find this work among my most important as a state representative. 

Specifically with regard to condo owners, the new law provides that a condo board that experiences a surplus at the end of the fiscal year may use the surplus in the following ways:
·         Transfer to the association reserve fund;
·         Return to unit owners as a credit against remaining assessments;
·         Refund to unit owners as a direct payment;
·         Maintain the funds in the operating account to be used as a credit for following year’s budget.
·         Provide for the owner in a forced condo sale to receive the greater of the value of their interest or the bona fide debt on the property, plus reasonable re-location expenses (this part was my contribution to the bill)

This is just one example of how we can set politics aside to make positive, meaningful changes to state law that benefit families and taxpayers.  

Ensuring health care network adequacy and transparency – House Bill 311

Illinois residents and families with health insurance coverage, whether they have purchased plans on the individual health insurance market or have enrolled in network plans by other means, are facing “narrow” or “tiered” networks that only include an extremely limited number of healthcare professionals. Many patients, particularly those who need specialized providers, may not have adequate access to care and must pay significantly more out-of-pocket for important healthcare services because the needed healthcare specialists are not “in-network”. The provisions of a new state law contained in House Bill 311 will ensure adequate networks moving forward.

The new patient protections now guaranteed in the law include:

1.       Insurance companies must ensure their networks meet patients’ needs. That means insurance plan networks must have enough health facilities and doctors, including specialists, in close proximity to where their policyholders live.
2.       Health plans must be more transparent. Insurers are now obligated to maintain updated provider directories. If a doctor or hospital is dropped from a network, the insurance company must notify patients in a timely fashion to help avoid surprise out-of-network charges. Doctors also face new patient notification requirements if they choose to leave a network.
3.       Patient care must not be disrupted due to changes in health insurance networks. A patient’s doctor may be dropped from the network, but pregnant women and patients with complex conditions will be able to stay with their doctors long enough to make a smooth transition – without getting charged extra.

The initial bill I sponsored was focused on ensuring consumers who bought insurance in specific networks at a specific price were not left out in the cold when insurance companies or medical service providers decided to end their relationship in the middle of the contract.  Gee, I actually thought that should be illegal to do so, as we are constantly reminded from pensioners and the courts that a contract is a contract – but I digress.

Greg Harris, a Democrat colleague, agreed to serve as Chief Sponsor of this legislation to give it a better chance of success, to educate other members on this issue and build broad bipartisan support for these common-sense, patient-centered protections.   The bill became a major piece of legislation that took 18 months to negotiate.  It includes a lot more about network adequacy than my original proposal did.  The bill passed the Illinois House in April and the State Senate in May before being signed into law by the Governor in September.  

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