Residents question lawmakers on medical coverage, pensions

Medical coverage and public pensions were on the minds of residents attending a Town Hall meeting July 23 with Franklin Park legislators.

About 40 people showed up at Northlake City Hall with questions for state Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-77th of Addison and state Sen. Don Harmon, D-39th of Oak Park.

Silvio DiVito of River Grove asked about the General Assembly’s efforts to cut state Medicaid costs.,

“There are strict limitations by the federal government (on what can’t be cut,)” Harmon replied. “We cut adult dental care. That was a mistake. It cost more in consequences. We also tried to cut down on rates and cut down on any fraud or abuse. We were hoping we could find billions in fraud. It’s a much smaller number.”

Penny Feldman of Northlake, who is a certified nurse-midwife in a hospital and serves on the Northlake City Council, said getting paper medical records transferred is costly and slow. She suggested electronic records.

“With a centralized database, there is always a scare about who could get access to it,” Willis said.

“We are investing a ton of money at the state level in electronic records,” Harmon said. “We have to deal with the confidentiality issues.”

Several attendees asked about public pensions.

“The pensions were as unfunded when there were drafted as they are today,” Harmon said, then reviewed some efforts by the legislature.

Those include changing the pension formula for public employees who began working after 2010, which was approved but is now pending while a lawsuit works its way through the courts.

Bruce Sewick of Leyden Family Services asked about cuts in mental health services.

“If you take care of people at the front end, it won’t cost as much at the back end, in jail,” Sewick said.

Harmon agreed, and mentioned a referendum sponsored by the Cook County Board for this fall.

“The Cook County Jail should not be the largest mental health institution in the state,” Harmon said.

Other topics included term limits, Common Core teaching standards and solar energy.

Questions occasionally drifted into federal territory. Joyce Krasche of Northlake expressed concern that a runway reconfiguration at O’Hare Airport would cause towns newly impact by noise to get its changed.

“It’s a federal problem,” Willis said. “We don’t have a lot of influence on this.”

He said U.S. Rep. Michael Quigley, D-5th of Chicago, and Tammy Duckworth, D-8th of Hoffman Estates, are working on the issue.

“I think you’ll see more money going into those new communities,” Harmon said.

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