Daily Dose: Looking for commies, wet even for April, Health Alliance, higher state retiree health care costs, medical marijuana, Rep. Johnson's campaign fund

Daily Dose: Looking for commies, wet even for April, Health Alliance, higher state retiree health care costs, medical marijuana, Rep. Johnson's campaign fund

Local history: Looking for commies

In 1911, with the dedication Sunday of the Church of Christ, University Place, the community’s largest place of worship was opened for services. The entire structure is not new, but an addition has almost doubled the capacity of the church.

In 1961, the Champaign County Board of Supervisors, by a three-vote margin, turned down a proposal calling for the establishment of an internal security committee to receive information on communist and other subversive activities in the county. Establishment of the committee was proposed by Supervisor Wayne Applegate, who said its purpose would be to receive information on the activities from organizations and citizens. Applegate said he had heard reports that communists were trying to get into the schools and that someone should look into the reports. The proposal was defeated 22-25.

Wet enough for you?

Today is the 10th consecutive day of rain in Champaign-Urbana, according to the Illinois State Water Survey. It also has rained for 17 of the first 25 days of April 2011.

April's monthly precipitation total is now 4.37 inches with a lot more on the way. The April average is 3.65 inches.

By the way April is not the wettest month of the year locally; May is with an average of 4.8 inches of rain a month.

More on Health Alliance decision

From the State Journal-Register ...

Thousands of state employees, retirees and their dependents in central Illinois have been angered and worried by the prospect of losing Health Alliance HMO coverage and having to join other plans that could require them to pay more to keep their doctors or force them to get new ones.

“This has just kind of put me in shock,” Brunner said. “I really would like to stay with Springfield Clinic.”

The worries voiced by Brunner and others may be premature, according to an analyst from a bipartisan legislative oversight group.

But for almost 115,000 downstate residents, the uncertainty began this month when state officials awarded HMO contracts — potentially lasting 10 years — to Chicago-based Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois.

In doing so, the state dropped HMOs offered by Humana and Health Alliance, effective July 1.

Health Alliance and Humana have protested the contract awards and asked to be included among the health-plan options for state workers. Matt Brown, a chief procurement officer for the state, is expected to rule on the protests in the next few weeks, but the controversy could delay the scheduled May 1-May 30 open-enrollment period for state workers.


Higher charges for retiree health care

From the State Journal-Register ...

Already embroiled in a controversy over changing health plans for state workers, Illinois lawmakers may soon find themselves in another over charging retirees premiums for their health insurance.

A consultant’s report is due May 2 that among other things is supposed to recommend options for having retirees pay more for health insurance.

The focus will be people who retire at a younger age and begin collecting a state pension and also aren’t old enough to qualify for Medicare benefits. For many of them, they can continue to be covered by state health benefits but do not have to pay premiums for that coverage.

“What we’re looking at principally is that group between (age) 55 and those who are Medicare eligible,” said Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, D-Evanston.

Schoenberg co-chairs the General Assembly’s bipartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. It was COGFA that voted in March to hire Mercer Health and Benefits of Dallas for $22,000 to prepare the analysis.

Mercer’s contract requires it to conduct a review of what other states charge retired employees for health-care coverage, as well as how private-sector companies handle health-care charges for retirees.  The company is supposed to develop a “multi-tiered premium structure in which current and future state of (Illinois) retirees would contribute towards the cost of their group health insurance.”


Sun-Times endorses medical marijuana

From the Chicago Sun-Times ...

Reasonable people see a difference between using marijuana to treat the symptoms of a serious illness and passing out joints on a playground. Yet both acts, under current law, are criminal.

State lawmakers can fix that by passing a pending bill, which in previous years has been shot down, that would legalize the medical use of marijuana by people with cancer, HIV, Crohn’s disease and several other illnesses.

Fifteen other states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, which has been shown to reduce the nausea and vomiting that are typical side effects of anti-cancer drugs. It also is effective in improving the appetite of AIDS patients, treating the pain of multiple sclerosis and treating the pressure within the eye caused by glaucoma.

A measure before the Illinois House would allow people with specific medical conditions to purchase marijuana from not-for-profit dispensaries, so long as they have proof of medical need from their doctor. A database would be set up to make sure patients don’t buy more than 2.5 ounces every 14 days. And the law would expire, if not renewed, in three years.

Lawmakers should not fear that supporting this bill will make them look soft on crime.


Rep. Tim Johnson's fundraising

From yesterday's News-Gazette column ...

Six-term incumbent Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, has increased his fundraising efforts in recent months, apparently over uncertainty about what his congressional district will look like next year.
It’s a given that Johnson’s congressional district will change, partly because it needs to expand by about 30,000 residents to meet the ideal population of 712,813, and partly because other downstate Illinois districts also need to grow.
So should Johnson run for a seventh term, he’ll do so in a district that will be at least partly if not greatly unfamiliar to him. And it’s possible he’ll have to run against another Republican congressman; Illinois loses one congressional seat in reapportionment and the Democrats who will draw the new map may take it from downstate Illinois, where the GOP holds all but one seat.
Johnson’s campaign fund had $195,692 on March 31, far from a windfall but it’s the greatest sum Johnson has had at this point in the election cycle since the first quarter of 2005 when he had $221,319. Four years ago, in April 2007, Johnson had a mere $15,481.
“Tim is just being prudent and being a bit more assertive in fundraising this time around. There are some uncertainties we are facing with redistricting and I just think it’s wise on Congressman Johnson’s part to step it up,” said Johnson spokesman Phil Bloomer. “We still don’t know what the map’s going to hold. It’s all up in the air.”
Johnson, however, had less money on hand than the three other downstate Republicans: John Shimkus, $1.2 million, Aaron Schock, $1.2 million, or Adam Kinzinger, $237,091. Only one other GOP congressman south of I-80, newcomer Bobby Schilling of Moline, had less money than Johnson. Schilling reported $98,982 on hand.













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