President's Message - Advocacy - Illinois Pharmacy Legislative Day

by Chris Rivers, ICHP President
April 17, 2012

Advocacy is a piece of the organizational puzzle. The Government Affairs Division (GAD) works closely with Jim Owens, ICHP’s legislative consultant in following bills and legislation that affect our profession. Legislation and regulations such as these impact public health, pharmacy and related practice. The ICHP list of bills to monitor for the 2012 Legislative Day included, but was not limited to, 14 House bills and 13 Senate bills.   

In preparation for “Under the Dome”, the 6th Annual Illinois Pharmacy Legislative Day, Scott Meyers gave a presentation “Legislative Day 101”. The hour long continuing education was a comprehensive overview of: a description of the process of creating and revising of Illinois statutes: how to differentiate between Illinois statute and regulation; and a review of active bills and potential issues related to pharmacy.  He also listed the professional organizations and state agencies that frequently provide input during the legislative process and identified the steps for a successful interaction with a legislator, constitutional officer or government agency representative.

This was at least my seventh pharmacy legislative day (I’ve been a member of GAD for so long I’ve lost count), and every year I am impressed by the organized event.  The Annual Pharmacy Legislative Day was a huge success.  More than 400 pharmacists, technicians, students, and ICHP/IPhA staff members united in Springfield on March 7 for the opportunity to talk to their legislators.

After the buses from UIC, MWU, and CSU met in Springfield, the busy day began. We checked in and had lunch.  The Legislative Orientation by Scott Meyers, ICHP Executive Vice President and Mike Patton, IPhA Executive Director was informative.  The presentation included a discussion of current pharmacy related bills to be discussed with Illinois legislators, listed the positive and negative outcomes of each piece of legislation and described the current status of each legislative initiative. The bills included in the talking points were:

SB3513 Pharmacy – Child Immunizations – Sen. Iris Martinez – This bill amends the Illinois Pharmacy Practice Act.  It is currently being heard by the Licensed Activities Committee.  Specifically it amends the “Practice of Pharmacy” definition to permit a pharmacist to vaccinate a patient 7 years (instead of 14 years) of age and older pursuant to a valid prescription or standing order.

HB5293 Unemployed Protected Status – Rep. Mary Flowers – This bill amends several Illinois Public Acts: Public Utilities Act, Pharmacy Practice Act, Public Aid Code, Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, Non-Support Punishment Act, Income Withholding for Support Act, and Code of Civil Procedures.

The bill provides that notwithstanding any other provision, if a person is either an unemployed individual who is eligible for unemployment benefits under the Unemployment Insurance Act or an unemployed individual who is no longer eligible for extended benefits because the individual has exhausted his or her extended benefits under that Act, then:
  1. A public utility company that receives any federal or State funds shall not terminate or cut off the gas or electrical services,
  2. A pharmacy or pharmacist who receives any federal or State funds shall not refuse to dispense prescription medication,
  3. The unemployed individual shall not be sentenced to any period of imprisonment for failure to make child support payments,
  4. No person may bring a forcible entry or detainer action for the possession of lands or leased premises against any person who is an unemployed individual, or
  5. No mortgagee who receives any federal or State funds may institute foreclosure proceedings against any mortgagor who is unemployed.

While unemployment in Illinois is a serious issue and has adversely affected many lives, this bill unfairly singles out pharmacies and pharmacists within the health care field.  It does not require physicians, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists or other health care providers to provide similar services and products to unemployed individuals at no cost and with no recourse.

HB5695 – Amends the Public Aid Code – Rep. Michael Tryon – This bill amends the Medical Assistance Article of the Illinois Public Aid Code to provide coverage of prescribed over the counter medications for Medicaid patients.  It covers prescriptions written by physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, or any other medical care provider qualified to prescribe medications.  The first aspect of this bill allows patients access to less expensive and lower risk medication alternatives compared to the currently available prescription-only medications. But more importantly a concern is one of Governor Quinn’s ideas for balancing the budget calls for the discontinuation of the Medicaid prescription medication program for adults.  We encouraged the legislators to vote YES on HB5695 as a means of saving money for the Illinois Medicaid program.  We also urge you to vote NO on any measure that would take life saving prescription medications away from Illinois’ adult Medicaid patients!

The next portion of the day included legislator visits, floor tours of the House and Senate and displays in Capitol Hall.  Our large, diverse group was divided into Senator and Representative Districts.  My group visited two senators and four representatives.  The members in my group were persistent and were given an opportunity to speak with Senator Heather Steans.

After the Capitol activities, Ed Rickert, ICHP’s Director of Government Affairs, presented an update of the Illinois Controlled Substance Act.     

We ended the day with the Legislative Reception that allowed us to interact with legislators in a relaxed setting.  Twenty-seven government officials attended the Pharmacy Legislative Reception including Judy Baar Topinka, State Comptroller; Dan Rutherford, State Treasurer; Sheila Simon, Lt. Governor; 3 senators; and 19 house representatives.  

I always return after these busy, productive Legislative Days energized from observing and interacting with constituents and future leaders of pharmacy and from seeing the direct effects of advocacy on our profession.

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