Posts Tagged ‘Illinois’

Illinois Attempts to Curb Roadway Fatalities with Signs

July 23rd, 2012 by | Comments Off | Filed in auto insurance

Officials at the Illinois Department of Transportation announced earlier this month that they’re hoping to reduce the number of traffic-related fatalities in their state by using signs.

Specifically, the state Transportation Secretary, Ann Schneider, has launched a digital message board campaign that will feature friendly reminders about traffic safety on electronic signs across the state. The information on the signs will include slogans like, “Safe a Life, Buckle Up,” “Don’t Text and Drive,” and “Don’t Drink and Drive,” as well as posting the daily traffic fatality total for all to read.

According to Department officials, there had already been 479 traffic fatalities in Illinois as of July 5th of this year. In the same amount of time last year, only 418 fatalities had occurred.

The message board system being used is typically restricted to construction notifications, lane closings, and Amber Alerts about missing children. To make sure those messages aren’t adversely impacted by the new campaign, Illinois officials assure that their safety reminders will only be posted when there are no active emergency alerts.

We think a reminder to carry adequate auto insurance should be added to the rotating reminders.

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3 Illinois Counties Declared Disaster Areas by Governor

August 12th, 2011 by | Comments Off | Filed in flood insurance

Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois has declared three counties there to be disaster areas due to severe damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure as a result of last months flooding.

According to the Governor, who issued a statement on Wednesday, the July 27 flash floods in the northwest part of the state caused damage in Carroll, Jo Davies, and Stephenson counties that will cost the residents and business owners there months of recovery time.

The governor’s statement also said that personnel from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency have been cooperating with officials in all three counties in order to coordinate requests for state-administered resources. He also said that the state has a strong commitment to helping those communities recover.

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State Farm, Allstate Offering Benefits to Same-Sex Partners

May 25th, 2011 by | Comments Off | Filed in alternative health plans, insurance news

Last week, State Farm insurance announced a significant change in their corporate policy. The company will be extending health care coverage and other benefits to the same-sex partners of its agents, agency staff members, employees, and retirees, so long as they’re in legally recognized relationships.

Such benefits are already offered to employees and their partners in ten jurisdictions where the company operates, but State Farm spokesperson Phil Supple said that the programs will go nationwide as of June 1st, 2011. Supple added that if existing ratios are accurate, the cost of doing so won’t be at all significant.

What brought on this decision? It stems from a change in the laws in State Farm’s home state of Illinois which requires benefits be extended to partners who have civil unions. Even though only two of the insurer’s plans would be subject to the new law, Suppler said, it was decided to extend benefits to all plans and employees (etc.) nationwide in order to be “fair and consistent.” Across the United States, the company has about 68,000 employees and 18,000 agents.

Employees and their partners must be in legally recognized relationships under the laws of the states where they reside, including civil unions, same-sex marriages, and domestic partnerships, in order for the partners to receive benefits, which include medical, dental, vision, life, long-term care, and accidental death and dismemberment coverage.

Another major insurer, Allstate Corp, also offers benefits to same-sex partners (as well as some non-traditional opposite-sex partners who are in document-able exclusive, committed relationships), with such caveats as a demonstrated co-responsibility for each other’s welfare and financial obligations, a shared primary residence, legal adulthood, and no relationships or marriages outside the partnership.

Benefits for Allstate employees include medical, dental, vision, and long-term care coverage, as well as flexible spending accounts.

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Workers’ Comp In Illinois: No Lawyer Required

February 17th, 2011 by | Comments Off | Filed in workers compensation insurance

Want to hear something scary? Workers in Illinois have received thousands of tax-free dollars in workers’ compensation with what amounts to a doctor’s note.

According to a report in the Belleville News-Democrat, cases that have involved wrist or elbow issues with municipal and private workers have been resolved without the affected worker needing surgery, treatment, or even legal representation.

Information from the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission database reveals that 95% of 3,500 private and public workers outside the city of Chicago who chose not to hire lawyers received settlements in 2010 without any of the usual administration process – a process which takes weeks or months everywhere else in the country.

The database did not list awards by any of the fifteen arbitrators based in Chicago.

According to the commissions chairperson, going forward uncontested claims will not be approved until after they’ve been assigned a case number, logged into the database, and subjected to public review.

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Illinois Seeks Comments on Health Insurance Exchange

November 22nd, 2010 by | Comments Off | Filed in health care reform, health insurance

The state of Illinois is asking for public comment on an online insurance exchange. They are seeking for comments about the financing, governance, and structure of the exchange, which would make health insurance coverage available to individuals and small businesses.

Under the healthcare reform laws passed last March, each state must have exchanges operational by the year 2014.

The website for the Illinois Health Care Reform Implementation Council has more than two dozen questions for the public to consider, including questions like, “Should health plans compete on price and quality to get into the exchange? Or should all insurers be allowed to sell coverage?” and “Should there be one exchange or two for the individual and small group markets?”

Comments, which can be emailed to gov.healthcarereform@illinois.gov., should be submitted no later than December 3rd.

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Company Wellness Programs: They’re Not Just for the Big Guys Anymore

March 16th, 2010 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in alternative health plans, health insurance

It’s no secret that large corporations have been cutting costs by encouraging employees to use on-site, in-house wellness programs, some replete with healthy dining facilities and gymnasiums. However, wellness programs aren’t just for big companies any more. In fact, two Illinois-based medium-sized businesses, Mechanical Devices, Co. (Bloomington) and the Town of Normal have implemented wellness programs of their own, and are finding that their employees are happier – and healthier – as a result.

Linda Fillingham, co-owner and office manager of the 250-employee Mechanical Devices, Co., thought screenings would be a good way to dispense health information to her staffers, and also motivate improvements where they were needed. In 2005, she contacted OSF St. Joseph Medical Center’s Center for Healthy Lifestyles, and the screenings were subsequently held in the employee lunchroom, at her company’s expense.

Of the program, Linda said, smiling, “”It was voluntary but I had to twist some arms. We had close to 80 percent participation.” She added, “It’s totally private. I don’t see individual numbers, just overall numbers.” But she is aware that some people had results that were not what they expected. “It forces people to think about their body. And without a healthy body, you don’t perform as well on the job and don’t perform as well anywhere in life.”

One such employee was Richard Hetherington of Bloomington, who told the Insurance Journal, “I hadn’t been to a doctor in a long time because I felt fine,” he said. But after his screening results showed he had high blood pressure and cholesterol and was on the verge of being diabetic, he made changes like beginning a blood pressure medicine regimen, eating less, and reducing carbohydrates and sodium. Within weeks, he had lost 30 pounds and was able to manage his blood pressure without medicine, reduce his cholesterol and keep his pre-diabetes under control.

Today, Hetherington, who is now 65 years old, continues to control his weight and blood pressure by watching what he eats, riding his bike when the weather allows, and lifting weights when he gets home from work. Of his current health, he said, “I just feel better.”

In addition to annual health screenings, Mechanical Devices also offered smoking cessation classes as part of the company’s preparation to go smoke-free two years ago. “I got 10 to 15 (employees) to stop smoking and everyone else (other smokers) reduced smoking,” Fillingham said.

Quality control employee Jackie Felts joined the eight-week anti-smoking program in January 2007, and, after a plan that included weekly meetings, counseling, advice, and a nicotine patch, finally quit on February 13, 2007.

46-year-old Bloomington resident Felts said, “I feel 100 percent better. I have more energy, I can breathe better, I can do more stuff, I don’t get out of breath. But without the program being offered here, I probably wouldn’t have done it.”

Fillingham added that while the program does cost the company money, she believes that when there are fewer employees having heart attacks and other expensive medical problems there will be savings. “Employees who feel good about themselves do well for you,” she said. “They are your most valuable asset.”

Similarly, the Town of Normal also began offering occasional health and wellness programs for employees several years ago, but according to Geoff Fruin, assistant to the city manager, “…it was a hands-off approach. We presented opportunities to employees but they weren’t changing the workplace culture and keeping the wellness perspective in front of employees. “The employees were wanting more,” he recalled. “And from the town perspective, we want to employ a happy, healthy, productive work force.”

Town officials went to Advocate BroMenn (then known as BroMenn Healthcare) and agreed to a pilot program whereby, beginning in September, 2006, Marcy Kaufman of BroMenn would be the town’s on-site wellness specialist 20 hours a week.

Kaufman now offers health screenings at several town locations, including City Hall, the fire stations, parks and recreation and public works. In addition exercise classes, fitness equipment orientations, lunch-and-learn presentations on topics like improving nutrition and back-safety, are also offered, and employees can sign up to receive emailed newsletters with health tips.

Kaufam is also in charge of fitness incentive programs, such as last summers “Get Fit on 66″ in which employees participating in various wellness activities earned rewards like water bottles, gift cards, t-shirts, and pedometers.

Fruin shared that 213 of the 370 full-time town employees participated in at least one wellness program last year, and that the participation rate continues to increase. An annual survey of employees includes testimonials about weight loss, blood pressure being under control, and cholesterol being reduced, as well as overall healthier eating and exercise habits.

“That is rewarding. We are seeing the beginnings of a culture change here,” Fruin said.

In fact, the town of Normal may already be experiencing a financial benefit.

In 2006, the average increase in health insurance claims for the town was 14.2 percent, against a national average of only 7.9 percent. In 2008 – the most recent year for which data is available – the town’s increase was only 1.3 percent, while the national average was 8.9 percent.

“We think the program played a significant role in helping us reduce the claims’ increase,” Fruin said. “For every dollar we invested in wellness in the first two years of the program, we realized a $4.50 benefit due to a reduction in claims.”

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Flood Insurance Changes in Illinois and Nebraska

January 14th, 2010 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in flood insurance, insurance news

It’s difficult enough to know when flood insurance is required when you live in a relatively stable region, but property owners in three counties in southwestern Illinois are in a kind of flood zone limbo, while they wait for new Mississippi River flood maps to be drawn.

According to Illinois Senator Richard Durbin, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has informed him in writing that there will be a delay of new flood insurance maps for Madison, Monroe, and St. Clair counties, until at least 2011.

Originally the maps were to be published sometime this year, but FEMA has told Senator Durbin that more time is needed for accurate analysis of public comments about the maps, as well as to handle “other required administrative steps.”

Since the revised maps are expected to result in a significant increase to the size of the flood plain, the number of people for whom flood insurance will be mandatory, and the cost of such insurance, the people of Illinois are not upset about the reprieve.

Further west, in Nebraska, there are also changes to flood insurance in the works, but in this case the news is good: the city of Lincoln, NE has received a rating upgrade that will save local property owners money on their flood insurance

A press release from Lincoln Mayer Chris Beutler said that the city’s rating improved from class 7 to class 6 in the Federal Community Rating System. Mr. Beutler attributes the improvement to the city’s extensive work with federal officials to gain credits to the flood protection provided by the Salt Creek levee.

Representatives of the City of Lincoln say that the improved rating will help local property owners save about 20% a year – or roughly $160 – on flood insurance, as opposed to a savings of 15% ($120) under the old rating.

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