Press Release

August 20, 2005


New law creates the Arthritis Prevention, Control and Cure Act

SPRINGFIELD In an effort to improve the lives of millions who suffer from the pain of arthritis, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today signed legislation that will increase awareness and research of this debilitating disease. One in five adults in the United States reports having doctor-diagnosed arthritis. Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States, limiting daily activities for more than 7 million people. In Illinois, it is estimated that 3 million people suffer from arthritis and/or chronic joint symptoms.

“Millions of Illinoisans live with the daily pain and physical limitations caused by Arthritis,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “This new law will allow for more Arthritis research and hopefully lead to new treatments .”

House Bill 2380 creates the Arthritis Prevention, Control and Cure Act, which directs the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to establish, promote and maintain an arthritis program to raise public awareness and educate consumers, and to educate and train health professionals, teachers and human service providers.

The law also requires IDPH to establish a pilot program for the study of innovative arthritis public health projects and implementation of community health projects. Under the pilot program, IDPH would grant money to academic and health organizations to study arthritis. Grant applications would be reviewed by IDPH, the Arthritis Foundation and the Illinois Arthritis Partnership. An Advisory Council on Arthritis would be appointed to provide non-governmental input regarding the program.

HB 2380 was sponsored by Rep. Elizabeth Coulson (R-Glenview) and Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg (D-Evanston).

"This new law will intensify our efforts across Illinois to educate both medical professionals and those who suffer from Arthritis on the importance of screening, proper treatment and the need for additional physical activity, " said Sen. Schoenberg. "It also enables public health professionals and Arthritis advocacy groups to broaden their reach into many more medically-underserved areas throughout the state."

The new law, which is subject to appropriation, expands IDPH’s current arthritis prevention program, which was established in 1999 with federal funds and includes a statewide partnership and four work groups that meet regularly. In addition, the Illinois Arthritis Action Plan, a statewide plan for addressing arthritis in Illinois, was developed. Self-reported prevalence data collection began through the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, and the first Illinois Arthritis Data Report was developed in 2002 and updated in 2005.

Several pilot and demonstration projects have been undertaken to help increase awareness and programs available to persons with arthritis. However, due to limited funding, there are still many underserved populations and geographic areas within the state. The new law creates a program that will impact residents throughout Illinois, with an emphasis on diverse populations and other underserved groups.

“While IDPH has been trying to address the burden of arthritis in the state, this new law allows us to strengthen our efforts and help more people,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director. “The Department will be able to support professional education, screening, and additional physical activity programs.”

In Illinois, 22.7 percent (approximately 2.1 million Illinois adults) of the state’s citizens reported having doctor-diagnosed arthritis, and another 9.1 percent (more than 850,000 Illinois adults) reported possibly having arthritis, according to data collected from the 2002 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. The prevalence of doctor-diagnosed arthritis was higher among persons in rural communities, those with lower income and persons with lower education levels. An estimated 163,000 Illinois adults with doctor-diagnosed arthritis (13 percent) do not have health care coverage.

Research has shown that people who started disease-modifying medications within the first year of being diagnosed with arthritis were less likely to experience disability than people who started treatment five years after the start of the disease. However, of those Illinoisans with possible arthritis, 38 percent had never been seen by a doctor for their joint symptoms and, of those with doctor-diagnosed arthritis, 57 percent were not currently being treated by a doctor for their arthritis.

The Arthritis Foundation, which will help review the grants, was a strong proponent of the legislation.

“The Arthritis Foundation’s mission is to improve lives through leadership in the prevention, control and care of arthritis and related diseases,” said Erica Plaisier, vice president of Health Promotion, Arthritis Foundation, Greater Chicago Chapter. “If funded, HB 2380 will assist in working toward this mission by providing important programs, services and resources that would help the many Illinois citizens living with such conditions. The strong sponsor support of the legislation illustrates the burden of this disease upon constituents and the critical need for arthritis research and public health initiatives in Illinois.”

The new law is effective Jan. 1, 2006.

Signing HB 2380 builds on the Governor Blagojevich’s long standing effort to make sure that more people get more health care and better benefits, protect coverage for those who have health care, and help hospitals, doctors and nurses provide better health care. Specifically:

  • Best in the nation for providing health care to the working poor: Since Governor Blagojevich took office, 313,000 more men, women and children have received health care through the KidCare and FamilyCare programs – at a time when most states are not only not providing more coverage for the working poor, but also kicking people off of Medicaid or significantly reducing their benefits. This year’s budget included funding to add another 56,000 men, women and children. The Kaiser Foundation has ranked Illinois the best state in the nation for providing health care to people who need it.
  • Fourth state in the nation to publicly fund stem cell research: Governor Blagojevich and Comptroller Dan Hynes announced this month that Illinois became the first state in the Midwest, and only the fourth state in the nation, to commit public funds to the life-saving work of stem cell research. By Executive Order, Governor Blagojevich directed the Illinois Department of Public Health to create a program that will award $10 million in grants to medical research facilities for the development of treatments and cures. Studying stem cells allows scientists and doctors to better understand what causes serious medical illnesses and conditions in hopes of discovering new ways to treat or even cure them.
  • One of only a handful of states to protect Medicaid recipients: The budget signed by Governor Blagojevich a few weeks ago ensures – for the third consecutive year, despite facing budget deficits – that Medicaid recipients maintain their health care, unlike states ranging from Missouri to Tennessee to Texas to Washington who are either kicking people off of Medicaid or significantly reducing benefits.
  • First state to develop a statewide small business health insurance pool and program: Governor Blagojevich and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce are developing a small business health insurance program that will help small businesses reduce their costs and provide more health care for their employees. Illinois will be the first state to create a pool where businesses of 50 employees or less can join, saving money on the negotiated rate, administrative costs and broker fees.
  • First state to make prescription drugs from Europe and Canada available: Under Governor Blagojevich, Illinois became the first state to allow its citizens to purchase prescription drugs from Europe and Canada. More than 10,000 people have enrolled in the last few months alone to take advantage of lower prices (25-50% less) for over 120 name brand prescription drugs.
  • Most comprehensive state response to fill in gaps in the federal prescription drug benefit: The Governor signed the Leave No Senior Behind legislation, which is Illinois’ response to the federal Medicare prescription drug benefit. Because of the major holes in the federal program, the Governor’s plan fills in the gaps, so Illinois seniors will not suffer the same fate that face seniors in other states.
  • First state to require pharmacists to dispense female contraceptives: In April, Governor Blagojevich issued an emergency rule requiring pharmacists whose pharmacies sell contraception to dispense birth control to women with valid prescriptions. The Governor’s emergency rule will become permanent this summer. First Lady Patti Blagojevich also launched a new website designed to help women learn how to have their birth control costs covered by their insurance companies. Additionally, seven leading contraceptives are now available through the state’s I-Save Rx program at discounts of as much as 79% off the price currently charged at pharmacies in Illinois.
  • Improving women’s health programs: Governor Blagojevich created the Illinois Healthy Women program to provide health care to women who otherwise would go without. To date, the program has served more than 100,000 women. The g overnor also sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, seeking approval of his plan to expand the Illinois Healthy Women program to cover an additional 50,000 women. In addition, Illinois has dramatically increased the number of mammograms and cervical cancer screenings since Governor Blagojevich took office.
  • Signing life-saving women’s health legislation: Governor Blagojevich signed into law several bills providing additional cancer screenings for women and expanding funds for critical cancer research. The laws require insurers to cover breast cancer screening earlier in a woman’s life, and to cover ovarian cancer screenings for at-risk women. A third law created a scratch-off lottery game to raise money for breast cancer research. A fourth law expanded a cancer research fund to include ovarian cancer research.
  • Accessing nearly $2 billion in new federal health care money: Governor Blagojevich signed hospital assessment legislation, which means nearly $2 billion in new federal funding for Illinois hospitals. Last year, the Governor persuaded the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to approve a plan that meant nearly $500 million in new federal funds for Illinois hospitals. This plan, which requires federal approval but was constructed with their guidelines in mind, means more than three times that amount.
  • Medical malpractice reform: This summer, Governor Blagojevich will sign major medical malpractice reform legislation, which will reduce the cost of insurance premiums for doctors and stop doctors from leaving the state. Governor Blagojevich helped pass the legislation despite his personal opposition to caps, because making sure that people have access to health care is probably the most important function government performs.
  • Reducing the nursing shortage: Governor Blagojevich signed a package of bills aimed at reducing the nursing shortage in Illinois, including making it easier for foreign nurses to practice in Illinois. The state also eliminated the nurses registration backlog this April and increased the amount available in grants for nurses training. This fulfills the initiative launched by the Governor in his State of the State address to reduce the nursing shortage.


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