News From Around the State: Crop Report; Vaping Health Crisis; Medicaid Audit; and Cardinals License Plates

Crop Progress Report–The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) weekly crop reports have shown the corn and bean fields of Illinois partly snapping back from the wet conditions of April through June 2019.

Corn has received adequate sun and moisture in the second half of the crop year so far, and most of Illinois’ cornfields are moving though doughing and into denting.  Most of the bean fields have moved through blooming and have set their pods.

As of the first week of September 2009, however, almost nothing was mature and ready to harvest.  Illinois corn conditions were 75% fair-to-good, with 19% poor or very poor.  Illinois soybean conditions were 76% fair-to-good, with 17% poor or very poor.  The USDA crop report was dated Sunday, September 1.

Vaping health crisis seen as research and reports continue.  Many users are starting to consume nicotine through e-cigarette “vaping” devices that load fingertip-sized cartridges.  The devices vaporize the drug with other chemicals, letting people inhale nicotine vapor without smoking cigarettes.  Millions of Americans, including patients with existing lung diseases and breathing conditions, are exposing their respiratory systems to the chemicals associated with vaping behavior.  Some companies sell flavored vaping cartridges that are attractive to young people, leading to a surge in youth vaping.  The Illinois General Assembly enacted legislation this spring raising the minimum age to buy e-cigarettes (and conventional tobacco products) from 18 to 21.

Numerous reports are coming in from around the United States, including Illinois, of health concerns and even deaths associated with vaping and e-cigarettes.  Vaping devices and vaping technology can also be used to consume cannabis and other respiratory drugs.  As vaping behavior grows, Illinois lawmakers are discussing taking possible further steps to regulate the industry and discourage youth e-cigarette use.  Michigan this week adopted administrative rules to ban the sale of flavored vaping cartridges in the Great Lakes State.

Federal audit finds Illinois’ Medicaid program spent $4.6 million on deceased persons.  The finding was made as part of the federal Department of Health and Human Services’ (USDHHS) oversight of the Medicaid programs operated by all 50 states.  Washington now has the right to demand repayment of the $3.2 million they had advanced to the Illinois Departmnt of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) for this Medicaid misspending.  USDHHS, which has access to federal Social Security records that include payouts of Social Security death benefits, has found similar problems in California, Ohio, and Texas.

As part of the public/private portion of the overall Medicaid program, Illinois contracts with designated service gatekeeping firms, called “Medicaid managed care organizations” (Medicaid MCOs), for portions of the overall Medicaid headcount.  Illinois owes these firms a debt for each name they have on their lists; and, in return, the MCO firms are “gatekeepers” that deal with the hospitals, clinics, and other service providers that provide healthcare services to each patient.  The $4.6 million is money from taxpayers that Springfield paid to these gatekeeping firms with respect to names on these lists that represented patients who were deceased.  Illinois should have purged each of these names from these billing lists, but did not.  Now State taxpayers are left holding the bag.  The embarrassing finding was released on Tuesday, September 4.

New St. Louis Cardinals license plates.  Illinois fans of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team are invited to show their support with an”STL” Illinois license plate.  A supplemental fee is charged for the loyalty plates, with part of the fee covering the cost of production of the nonstandard plate and part going to the Professional Sports Teams Education Fund.  This Fund was set up by the General Assembly to use monies raised by professional sports plates for Illinois school aid.   Other motor vehicle license plates that raise money for this Fund include “Professional Sports Series” plates that honor the Chicago Bears, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Chicago Bulls, the Chicago Cubs, and the Chicago White Sox.

The Secretary of State’s Vehicle Services Division has the Cardinal plates for sale online.  As with other Illinois motor vehicle license plates, the Cardinals plates are designed for multi-year use, with owners invited to purchase annual renewal decals to maintain the registry of their vehicle in Illinois.  The Cardinal plates were released on Tuesday, September 3.