Illinois expands telehealth access • Hillrom’s growth strategy hits a snag • Breaking down COVID data by vaccination status

Illinois expands telehealth access • Hillrom’s growth strategy hits a snag • Breaking down COVID data by vaccination status

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PRITZKER SIGNS LAWS ON TELEHEALTH, BIRTH CONTROL: Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed legislation increasing telehealth access and empowering pharmacists to give birth control over the counter.

The governor signed HB3308, which requires insurance companies to reimburse health care providers for telehealth services at the same rates as in-person care until the end of 2027. Insurance companies will not be allowed to require in-person contact between patients and health care professionals before allowing telehealth services. Geographic or facility restrictions for telehealth services are prohibited.

HB135, also signed into law, allows women to get birth control straight from their pharmacist without having to visit a doctor. Pharmacists would give patients a self-screening risk assessment, offer counseling and education on birth control methods, and help a patient choose a form of birth control.

“This legislation that I’m signing into law today makes Illinois one of the first states in the Midwest to provide birth control over the counter, making contraceptives all the more accessible and affordable in our state,” Pritzker said in a release. “In 2019, when I signed the Reproductive Health Act into law, I said that in Illinois we guarantee as a fundamental right, a woman’s right to choose. Today, we take yet another stand to fulfill that promise.”

MEDICARE ROADBLOCK IMPACTS HILLROM’S DIGITAL DEALS: Hill-Rom Holdings hit an unexpected obstacle in its path from hospital bed-maker to digital medical device and analytics company. 

The Delaware Court of Chancery won’t let Chicago-based Hill-Rom, which now goes by Hillrom, out of its $375 million deal to buy Bardy Diagnostics, despite Medicare’s decision to significantly cut payments for Bardy’s wearable cardiac monitor.

Hillrom intends to appeal the ruling, but the episode underscores the perils of acquisitions in an industry that’s heavily dependent on the public and private insurers that pay for medical products and services in the U.S. And it comes at a pivotal time in the company’s digital transformation. READ MORE.

CHICAGO RELEASES COVID DATA BASED ON VACCINATION STATUS: With COVID-19 cases back on the rise, Chicago Department of Public Health has begun releasing the rates of infections, hospitalizations and deaths among residents based on vaccination status. The city hopes that sharing data about the risks for unvaccinated residents will encourage more people to get inoculated. 

The data shows that during the relatively small surge that Chicago experienced in April, the weekly case rate for unvaccinated residents was 250 per 100,000. For the vaccinated, it was under 100 per 100,000. 

Chicagoans who’ve had their shots are less likely to become seriously ill. So far in July, no deaths have been reported among vaccinated individuals, said CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady. The death rate per 100,000 for unvaccinated residents is roughly 0.5 as of yesterday, the data shows. READ MORE.

COVID TESTING DECLINE DIDN’T DAMPEN ABBOTT REVENUES: Abbott Laboratories posted stronger-than-expected second-quarter profit and revenue results, even as demand for its Covid-19 testing products dropped when U.S. virus cases ebbed in the spring.

Abbott has seen demand rebound from broad declines during the pandemic in most kinds of routine medical care, reporting $3.7 billion in revenue for the unit this quarter. READ MORE.

VACCINE MANDATE ROUNDUP: The University of Illinois Hospital & Clinics and OSF HealthCare will require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Meanwhile, the American Hospital Association has come out in support of the requirement for health care workers.

The U of I will require all workers, including volunteers and contractors, to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 1. Hospital and clinic workers with approved vaccine exemptions will participate in regular saliva testing. Those who aren’t exempt for religious or health reasons but fail to show proof of vaccination may be subject to “progressive disciplinary action,” the email says.

Also this week, OSF HealthCare, the Peoria-based system that owns OSF Little Company of Mary Medical Center in Evergreen Park, said it would require all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of September of this year. OSF’s statement says the decision is consistent with its existing flu shot and other vaccine requirements.

The moves come as AHA officially comes out in support of hospitals and health systems that require their workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine, with CEO Rick Pollack saying in a statement that vaccines “are safe and effective in reducing both the risk of becoming infected and spreading the virus to others.”

The Illinois Health & Hospital Association’s board of trustees “has not taken a formal position yet on whether hospitals should mandate that employees be vaccinated,” said spokesman Danny Chun.

MORE HOSPITALS OPEN POST-COVID CLINICS: Health systems across Chicago and the rest of the country are opening post-COVID-19 clinics to care for people who have a wide range of symptoms and are desperate for reassurance that they’re not going nuts.

At the two-hospital, not-for-profit system Edward-Elmhurst Health outside Chicago, administrators knew its patients would end up traveling to academic medical centers like Northwestern or Rush when symptoms recurred, and they saw an opportunity.

“We’re really the first health system that’s not an academic system to develop these clinics” in the area, said Samantha Rodriguez, system manager for neurosciences programs and acute care services at Edward-Elmhurst Health. “We didn’t want to lose our patient population when we knew that we had these resources available within our system.” Read more from our sister publication Modern Healthcare.

VILLAGE MD CLINICS TO OPEN IN 4 INDIANA WALGREENS: Walgreens and VillageMD have announced plans to open new Village Medical primary care clinics at four Walgreens stores in Indiana this year. The locations in Merrillville, Griffith, Portage and South Bend are among the 600 Village Medical at Walgreens opening in more than 30 U.S. markets over the next four years, with the intent to build hundreds more thereafter.

ILLINOIS’ PORTION OF OPIOID SETTLEMENT MAY BE NEARLY $800M: Drug maker Johnson & Johnson and three opioid distributors have agreed to pay $26 billion to settle thousands of government lawsuits blaming them for helping create a public-health crisis tied to their mishandling of the painkillers.

The state of Illinois will be signing on to the settlement, Attorney General Kwame Raoul said in a statement today. If the agreement is finalized and there is full participation by all local governments, Illinois will get approximately $790 million, the statement says. The substantial majority of the money is to be spent on opioid treatment and prevention. READ MORE.

COLUMN—THERE NEEDS TO BE PENALTY FOR VIOLATING PRICE TRANSPARENCY RULES: The Biden administration wants to inflict real financial pain on hospitals that ignore a rule aimed at corralling the country’s out-of-control health care costs. Crain’s columnist Joe Cahill says that’s a good idea.

“The entire health care system stands to gain as consumers armed with upfront price information seek out lower-cost providers,” he writes. Read his full column here. 

HELP AT HOME BUYS COMMUNITY CARE SYSTEMS: Chicago-based in-home care company Help at Home has acquired Springfield-based Community Care Systems Inc. an in-home services company with 13 locations in Illinois, as part of its growth strategy, Help at Home said in a statement.

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE

• Maurice Smith, president and CEO of Health Care Service Corporation, and Roosevelt University alum, has been named chair of the Roosevelt board of trustees. Smith’s three-year term begins September 1, succeeding chair Patricia Harris, former chief global diversity officer of McDonald’s Corporation. 

• Brandon Hill is Howard Brown Health’s new executive director for the Center for Education, Research, and Advocacy. Prior to joining Howard Brown, Hill served as the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains and was executive director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Chicago.

• Michelle Wright has been added to an expanded board of directors of Chicago-based autism company Caravel Autism Health. Wright previously served as chief human resources officer at CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield. 

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