Tobacco Policy Experts & CEO Available to Discuss Tobacco 21 Legislation

Interview Availability: Tobacco Policy Experts & CEO Available to Discuss Tobacco 21 Legislation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 23, 2018
Erica Krutsch
Desk: 312-628-0226
Cell: 734-262-4527

WHAT:            Respiratory Health Association, a local leader in tobacco policy change and key advocate for Tobacco 21 in Illinois, has expert staff available for comment on the passage of Tobacco 21 in Illinois.

WHY:               In communities across Illinois, the passage of local Tobacco 21 laws has led to significant declines in cigarette use by youth. In Chicago, where the Tobacco 21 law was accompanied by other City efforts to tighten laws restricting youth access to tobacco, the effect appears to be even more dramatic.

The health consequence of this development is significant because 95 percent of smokers start before the age of 21, making early intervention a key strategy in building a tobacco-free generation.  Each year tobacco use costs Illinois $5.49 billion in health care costs and $5.27 billion in lost productivity, according to research from the Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids.

Respiratory Health Association serves as Healthy Chicago’s community co-leader for tobacco control and offers evidence-based tobacco control strategies and smoking cessation programs. Respiratory Health Association played a leading role in the passage of Smoke-Free Illinois and has been a strong advocate for statewide adoption of Tobacco 21 in Illinois.

WHEN:             Immediately 

WHO:  Joel J. Africk – President and Chief Executive Officer
             Respiratory Health Association
              Available on site or by phone

              Matt Maloney – Director, Health Policy
             Respiratory Health Association
              Available on site or by phone

WHERE:        Respiratory Health Association

                        1440 West Washington Blvd., Chicago, IL 60607

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Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Metropolitan Chicago since 1906. A policy leader, our organization remains committed to advancing innovative and meaningful tobacco control policies.  We have been one of the state’s leading advocates for Tobacco 21 and Other Tobacco Product policies.  For more information, visit www.resphealth.org.

What is ‘Non-medical Switching’ of Prescriptions?

Under current Illinois law, there’s nothing that prevents coverage changes during the course of the policy year when participants are locked into their plans. These midyear changes in coverage often cause “non-medical switching” – the practice in which stable patients are forced off their original medications, regardless of clinician recommendations and health consequences.

RHA joined with partners to support legislation that prevents insurers from changing co-pays or coverage of medicines during a plan year. The legislation, HB 4146, passed the Illinois House Insurance: Health and Life committee and awaits a hearing of the full House of Representatives.

medical drugs close up

The issue of non-medical switching was brought to our attention by our friends at University of Illinois at Chicago pharmacy.  Many patients with chronic health issues, including respiratory diseases, are being forced off their current medications or prices shift for their medication. When these changes occur, other drugs may not control their symptoms adequately.

“Medical care is not one-size-fits-all,” said Matt Maloney, Director of Health Policy at Respiratory Health Association. “Making coverage decisions based solely on cost and forcing patients to change can cause unnecessary anxiety, all while ignoring the complexities that inform a patient’s individual care plan.”

We believe that when families in Illinois carefully shop for a health plan that covers the benefits they need, they should be guaranteed the coverage they signed up for the duration of the policy year.

It is especially important that patients who rely on medications to keep their health stable can purchase insurance coverage without fear that their benefits will be changed or be eliminated during the policy year.

HB 4146 is sponsored by State Representative Laura Fine and has bipartisan support with more than 50 other co-sponsors.

Want to help RHA’s legislative efforts? Join our Advocacy Champions group to make your voice heard.

Take a Stand Against Coal Plant Pollution

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) is working openly to allow most of Illinois’ remaining coal-fired power plants to nearly double their emissions of lung-damaging air pollution.  Dynegy, an energy company that owns eight coal plants in Illinois, started working behind the scenes with the IEPA over a year ago to weaken existing public health protections from air pollution.

Press conference with clean air activists

Brian Urbaszewski, RHA’s Director of Environmental Health Policy at a press event opposing the ruling.

The IEPA is pushing the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) to remove existing limits on the pollution emission rates for this fleet of eight coal plants in southern and central Illinois and to instead impose annual caps on how many tons of deadly sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides the plants emit. The proposed rollback would allow Dynegy to keep dirty coal plants open while closing cleaner ones equipped with pollution ‘scrubbers’ and to emit approximately 30,000 more tons of air pollution every year that triggers asthma attacks, emergency department visits, hospitalizations and premature deaths.

RHA has spoken out against these efforts that could drastically increase dangerous air pollution and harm people living with lung disease and will continue to do so.

This month, we joined with our partner organizations to file a motion to stop the hearings on Dynegy’s rollback proposal until Dynegy completes a recent merger with a much larger company.  Texas-based Vistra Energy acquired Dynegy in October 2017 and has not been involved in this rulemaking. We believe this dangerous rollback attempt should be put on hold until the merger is completed and Vistra publicly states whether it, too, wants to double air pollution from these coal plants.

Please join us in asking the IPCB to protect us all and prevent coal power plants from doubling the pollution they put in the air we breathe.

Save the Date – State Lung Health Education Day is April 18

On April 18th we’re bringing a busload of volunteers down to Springfield to meet with state lawmakers and educate them on lung disease and efforts to improve lung health. Whether you’re a seasoned advocate or a newcomer we want to empower you to speak up for lung health. Just sharing your story can be enough to influence policy and improve lives for years to come. The full day event includes a coach bus ride from Chicago to the Statehouse, advocacy training, a tour of the Capitol building, meetings with legislators, and a sit down lunch with special guest speakers. Email Matt Maloney at [email protected] to reserve your seat on the bus.