Gov. Pritzker Signs Community-Driven, Equity-Focused Healthcare and Hospital Transformation Bill
Chicago - Governor JB Pritzker today signed into law an equity-driven healthcare and hospital transformation plan that will invest in underserved communities, increasing access to community-based health services and creating innovative collaborations that bridge gaps in the delivery of care. With support from federal matching funds, Illinois will invest $150 million into collaboratives that fill healthcare gaps and focus on underlying health conditions in areas high on the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's social vulnerability index scale, communities that have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and areas served by critical access and safety net hospitals, including rural parts of the state.
"Inequities in the healthcare system existed long before the COVID-19 pandemic, and if we don't take action now, they will exist after the pandemic too. Our responsibility now is to expand accessible and equitable health systems all across Illinois and there's no time to waste," said Governor JB Pritzker. "Today, when I sign the bipartisan Hospital and Healthcare Transformation Bill into law, Illinois will make a giant leap forward in that mission. Make no mistake: this legislation is a win for all Illinoisans. But none will benefit more than those who have been most disproportionately hurt by COVID-19, from our Black and Brown neighborhoods to rural communities to other historically underserved communities."
"This plan encourages the design of better, more collaborative care and creates a pathway to better health outcomes in distressed communities across Illinois, particularly in communities of color most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic," HFS Director Theresa Eagleson said.
"The Department of Healthcare and Family Services has worked with a diverse group of community members and stakeholders to create this bold model, which is designed to require providers to involve real people in solutions to address the cultural, racial and economic hurdles they face in accessing quality health care."
Entities seeking funding in the program's first round must submit their proposals on or before April 9, 2021. The application is available here. For communities that are not yet ready to submit proposals or need additional assistance, support services through HFS will be available in the coming months in preparation for future rounds of funding. A second round of funding will be released later this year with additional healthcare transformation collaborative funding available in future years.
Through a research and development process that included community focus groups, Illinoisans in some of the state's most distressed communities were clear: they want more of a voice in the process to create solutions to meet their needs, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that has disproportionately affected communities of color. The healthcare transformation bill requires providers to take into consideration barriers residents have encountered in seeking access to quality care.
The funding is available to collaboratives of care providers including entities eligible to bill Illinois' Medicaid program. Additional types of eligible providers include partnerships between clinical care settings and community-based organizations in one of six categories: collaboratives anchored by safety net hospitals, safety net-anchored collaboratives dedicated to specialty care access, critical access hospital-anchored collaboratives, collaboratives in distressed communities, cross-provider care partnerships and workforce innovation and diversity inclusion collaboratives.
HFS will provide consultants for future collaboratives that require some assistance, and all partnerships will be evaluated using a racial equity lens before funds are awarded.
The state's Business Enterprise Program requirements for the collaboratives will open opportunities for minority firms to engage at all levels including as collaboration conveners, equity partners or subcontractors. Proposals with significant minority participation will be prioritized when the dollars are awarded. In order to qualify as a BEP vendor, entities must be at minimum 51% owned and controlled by people who are minorities, women or persons with a disability.
In the interest of transparency and accountability for both HFS and the collaboratives that are created, applications, reports, outcomes, proof of community engagement, BEP metrics, and best practices learned will be posted on the department's website. The new law also provides for the creation of a working group to help guide safety-net hospital designations, regional partnerships and racial equity factors.
"This creates an opportunity for communities across the state to come up with health care solutions that reduce disparities, are community focused and remove obstacles that exist to accessing quality care," House Majority Leader Greg Harris (D-Chicago) said. "If we've learned anything from the pandemic, it's that we need to prioritize a health care system that reaches all Illinoisans, and these collaboratives will work to do just that."
"This health care transformation bill is a step in the right direction toward closing the gaps in Illinois' health care system and achieving better outcomes in underserved communities," Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford (D-Chicago) said. "We've seen the disproportionate impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our Black and Brown communities and putting these critical dollars into partnerships that will address the systemic inequities that exist will make for a healthier Illinois overall."
"Improving access to quality health care and creating better outcomes is at the heart of this legislation," Sen. Ann Gillespie (D-Arlington Heights) said. "I'm eager to see what these collaboratives create and the solutions they find to get to better health outcomes for communities across Illinois."
"This bill dedicates funds to allow safety-net hospitals to elevate their work of serving some of our most vulnerable populations," Sen. Omar Aquino (D-Chicago) said. "I thank Gov. JB Pritzker for signing this legislation that will allow these critical health care providers to form innovative partnerships that further their missions."
"I am very excited that hospitals will have the assistance necessary to help them transform to meet the needs of their communities, as the pandemic has exacerbated the struggles faced in many unprivileged communities, some of which I represent. Specifically, people of color have been more susceptible to be infected with COVID-19, with hospital rates for Black, Latinx and Native people four times higher than those of white people," said Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago). "Due to institutional racism, communities of color have been suffering from a plethora of health disparities even before the pandemic came and took the world by storm. With the proper funding and investment into these underserved communities, I am hopeful this initiative will help put an end to such barriers."
"The hospital transformation program is a unique and exciting opportunity to invest in better healthcare access for the people of Illinois. After years of bipartisan work on this innovative program, today's bill signing signals a new opportunity to meet the needs of underserved communities in both urban and rural areas," said Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon). "These funds help demonstrate our commitment to improving health outcomes, and I look forward to seeing the transformation dollars at work."
HFS is scheduling webinars for interested parties. For more information about healthcare transformation, visit hfs.illinois.gov/transformation.