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Medrano, Moreno indicted

Thursday, Jun 28, 2012

* From the US Attorney’s office…

Two former elected public officials who served in legislative capacities for Cook County and the City of Chicago, respectively, are scheduled to appear at 3 p.m. today in Federal Court when new federal public corruption charges are expected to be unsealed against a total of seven defendants. Copies of the charges and a detailed press release will be distributed via email and the U.S. Attorney’s Office website after the charges are unsealed.

Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Gary Shapiro, First Assistant U.S. Attorney and Acting U.S. Attorney-designate, together with officials of the Chicago Offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, will be available following the court appearance to comment on the charges. The media availability will be held either in the lobby of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse (219 South Dearborn St.) or in the U.S. Attorney’s Office 9th floor Press Conference Room, and the location will be announced later to the assembled media representatives.

The defendants will be appearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Young Kim, who will be sitting in Judge Harry Leinenweber’s Courtroom – 1941 – on the 19th floor, south end, of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse.

We don’t know yet who’s been popped, so keep your speculation to yourself, please. We’ll all know around 3 o’clock. The US Attorney’s website is here.

* 2:58 pm - From Annie Sweeney’s Twitter feed

Seven people - including former Chgo alderman and a former County commissioner - snagged in latest fed corruption invest. Details to come.

* 2:59 pm - ABC7 is going live online.

* 3:16 pm - From Larry Yellen

Former alderman ambrosio Medrano and fmr. County cmmsr. Joe Moreno both in courtroom. Charges to be defendants named yet.

* Natasha Korecki

Former Chicago Ald. Ambrosio medrano, who served 30 months already just walked into fed courtroom in cuffs — he’s charged again

* Abdon Pallasch

accompanied by former Cook County Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno, also charged

* ABC7

The day before acclaimed federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald wraps up his government career, he has fired a final volley of public corruption charges at seven people.

New public corruption charges were leveled Thursday afternoon at former Chicago Ald. Ambrosio Medrano and former Cook County Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno. Both ex-elected officials were arrested on corruption charges in a case that involves five additional defendants.

Medrano should know his way around the federal courthouse. He was convicted in a bribery case more than 15 years ago in connection with Operation Silver Shovel and served 30 months in prison.

Moreno was the 7th District commissioner until being ousted in 2010.

* Natasha Korecki

While Medrano was arrested today, Moreno turned himself in with his lawyer. Still waiting on court to start.

* Korecki

Joseph mario Moreno and Ambrosio medrano charged in three alleged bribery schemes

* From the US Attorney’s office

Federal corruption charges were unveiled today in three separate bribery complaints. Two former local public officials, former Cook County Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno and former Chicago Ald. Ambrosio Medrano, each were charged in two of the three complaints. Three businessmen who allegedly participated in one bribery scheme, and two other businessmen who allegedly participated in another, also were charged.

The three alleged schemes involved:

    an alleged effort by Moreno, Medrano, and three Chicago area businessmen to use bribery and kickbacks to sell bandages to public hospitals, including Cook County’s John H. Stroger Hospital;

    an alleged effort by Medrano and two other businessmen, including James Barta, the owner of a Nebraska-based provider of prescription drug services that claims 11 million subscribers, to use bribery and kickbacks to obtain business from an unnamed out-of-state hospital system; and

    Moreno’s alleged acceptance of $5,000 as part of a bribe to ensure development of a waste transfer station in suburban Cicero while he sat on a town economic development panel.

“Public officials who solicit and obtain bribes, and private individuals who pay bribes, undermine trust in honest government. The defendants in these cases are alleged to have done just that,” said Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

Moreno, a Cook County commissioner for 16 years until 2010, and Medrano, the former alderman who later worked on Moreno’s county staff, allegedly agreed to receive kickbacks for using their influence as county officials to cause Stroger Hospital to purchase bandages under the brand name “Dermafill” from co-defendants Stanley Wozniak and Gerald W. Lombardi, who were agents of Chasing Lions, LLC, a disabled veterans-owned business in west suburban Lisle. The alleged scheme started in 2010 while Moreno was still a county commissioner and before he sponsored a county ordinance to benefit disabled veterans-owned businesses, such as Chasing Lions.

In early 2011, while the alleged Cook County scheme was still underway, the FBI introduced an undercover agent, who was posing as a third-party purchasing agent for the hospital system of County A, located in another state, to Medrano, Gerald W. Lombardi, and his son, Jerry A. Lombardi, who was also a Chasing Lions agent, as part of an alleged scheme by those three to provide kickbacks to a fictitious official of the County A hospital system in exchange for Dermafill orders placed by the undercover agent. After allegedly paying a kickback in connection with that scheme, Medrano introduced the undercover agent to Barta, the president and owner of Sav-Rx, and Gustavo Buenrostro, an associate of Barta and a former Sav-Rx employee. Barta, Buenrostro, and Medrano then allegedly agreed to bribe the undercover agent and fictitious County A hospital official — with Barta allegedly making a $6,500 payment to the undercover agent last week — to do business with Sav-Rx, a Fremont, Neb.-based national provider of managed care prescription medication services.

Moreno, also known as “Mario Moreno,” 59, of Chicago, and Medrano, 58, of Chicago, were charged together in one criminal complaint along with Wozniak, 49, of Chicago; Gerald W. Lombardi, also known as “Jerry Lombardi, Sr.,” 59, of Darien; and Jerry A. Lombardi, also known as “Jerry Lombardi, Jr.,” 33, of Downers Grove.

Medrano was charged in a second criminal complaint together with Barta, 70, of Fremont, Neb., and Buenrostro, 49, of Arlington Heights.

Moreno alone was charged in a third complaint charging the Cicero waste transfer station bribery.

Medrano, Wozniak, both Lombardis, and Buenrostro were arrested today and, together with Moreno, appeared this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Young Kim in Federal Court in Chicago. An arrest warrant was issued for Barta.

Mr. Fitzgerald announced the arrests and charges with Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Thomas Jankowski, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago. The FBI’s Chicago City Public Corruption Task Force led the investigation with assistance from the Chicago Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division, a task force member.

Details of the three complaints follow:

United States v. Moreno, Medrano, Wozniak, Lombardi, and Lombardi

Moreno and Medrano were charged with soliciting bribes; Wozniak and Gerald W. Lombardi were charged with offering bribes; and Medrano and the Lombardis were charged with bribery conspiracy in a three-count criminal complaint. According to the complaint affidavit, Wozniak and Gerald W. Lombardi communicated with Moreno in June 2010 about benefitting disabled veterans-owned businesses, and in September 2010, Moreno sponsored a county ordinance that gave a preference to such businesses. Later in September 2010, the FBI intercepted conversations between Moreno and Medrano about meeting with Wozniak and Gerald W. Lombardi, including one in which Medrano told Moreno that Wozniak and Gerald W. Lombardi wanted “to dangle a bigger piece of the pie in front of you.”

On Sept. 30, Moreno, Medrano, Wozniak and two other men met a restaurant in Chicago. During that meeting, agents intercepted a conversation between Moreno and County Hospital Official A, and from that point on, the defendants engaged in numerous recorded conversations in which they allegedly plotted to use Moreno’s and Medrano’s influence with County Hospital Officials A, B, and C to place bulk orders of Dermafill bandages. In a conversation on Oct. 19, 2010, Wozniak allegedly told Medrano that Moreno would receive $5 and Medrano would receive $2 for every “patch” ordered by Cook County. Wozniak explained that $5 a patch worked out to $70 a box, and that an order of 1,000 boxes would yield $70,000, with $24,000 of that for Medrano. In another conversation less than an hour later, Medrano told Wozniak that Moreno was using a calculator to try to determine how much he would be receiving from Wozniak and Lombardi, Sr. based on an order by Cook County Hospitals, the affidavit states.

The affidavit details further conversations in October, November and early December 2010 in which Moreno, Medrano, Wozniak, and Lombardi, Sr. allegedly persisted in efforts to influence Cook County Hospitals to purchase Dermafill bandages, but hospital officials would go no further than to discuss using a small amount of the product in a clinical trial beginning in January 2011. The defendants allegedly continued to discuss their efforts after Moreno left office in early December 2010. In February and March 2011, Lombardi, Sr. and Medrano allegedly appeared to conclude that although Moreno had done the best he could, Lombardi, Sr. no longer believed that Moreno had the ability to influence Cook County Hospitals to purchase the bandages.

At that point, through a cooperating witness (CW1), the FBI introduced an undercover agent, posing as a third-party purchasing agent for County A’s hospital system, to Medrano and the Lombardis. The complaint alleges that Medrano and the Lombardis:

    agreed to provide kickbacks to the undercover agent and a fictitious official of County A’s hospital system in exchange for orders placed by the undercover agent on behalf of County A;

    provided the undercover agent with an invoice for the sale of $9,360 worth of Dermafill bandages to be used by County A’s hospital system;

    accepted payment from the undercover agent’s purported company with the understanding they would be providing a 20 percent kickback to the undercover agent and the fictitious County A hospital official; and

    provided a kickback of 20 percent for the undercover agent and the fictitious County A hospital official.

After the initial purchase of roughly $10,000 worth of bandages, the defendants discussed receiving revolving $100,000 orders from the undercover agent. On March 4, 2011, Medrano allegedly gave an envelope containing $1,872 to the cooperating witness intending that it would be passed on to the undercover agent and the fictitious County A hospital official. In September 2011, conversations showed that Medrano and the Lombardis were expecting to receive four $100,000 orders a year, under the same kickback terms, from the undercover agent, according to the complaint.

United States v. Barta, Buenrostro, and Medrano

Medrano, Barta and Buenrostro were charged with conspiracy to commit bribery. According to the complaint affidavit, after paying a kickback in connection with the alleged scheme to influence the County A hospital system to purchase Dermafill bandages, Medrano introduced the undercover agent to Barta and Buenrostro. The complaint alleges that Barta, Buenrostro, and Medrano:

    an alleged effort by Moreno, Medrano, and three Chicago area businessmen to use bribery and kickbacks to sell bandages to public hospitals, including Cook County’s John H. Stroger Hospital;

    an alleged effort by Medrano and two other businessmen, including James Barta, the owner of a Nebraska-based provider of prescription drug services that claims 11 million subscribers, to use bribery and kickbacks to obtain business from an unnamed out-of-state hospital system; and

    Moreno’s alleged acceptance of $5,000 as part of a bribe to ensure development of a waste transfer station in suburban Cicero while he sat on a town economic development panel.

In November 2011, Medrano allegedly contacted the cooperating witness to reach out to the undercover agent to set up a meeting with Medrano and Buenrostro to discuss steering Sav-Rx’s services to County A’s hospital system. From December 2011 through March 2012, Medrano, Buenrostro and the cooperating witness continued to discuss the scheme, resulting in a meeting attended by those three, Barta, and the undercover agent at a Chicago restaurant on March 21, according to the charges. During the meeting, Barta discussed Sav-Rx’s business, including a contract with Cook County that involved using a minority contractor as a pass-through. Medrano allegedly was recorded stating that the pass-through minority contractor was used to steer payments to then-Cook County Commissioner Moreno. Medrano allegedly said that every time the minority contractor “got paid, Mario [Moreno] got paid.”

The undercover agent explained the 20 percent kickback arrangement — 10 percent for him and 10 percent for the fictitious hospital official — if they were to succeed in expanding Sav-Rx’s services into County A’s hospital system. Barta replied that the arrangement was okay with him. In subsequent conversations, Medrano allegedly assured the cooperating witness and undercover agent that Barta and Buenrostro wanted to do a deal with the agent and were willing to provide an initial $10,000 payment in good faith.

The same group of individuals met again on May 9 at a Chicago restaurant and allegedly continued discussing steering Sav-Rx’s services to County A, including using Medrano and Buenrostro to be the minority participants in a contract, with Barta allegedly endorsing that idea. Barta directed Buenrostro to do research on County A and paid the lunch bill. The undercover agent said that the fictitious County A hospital official was not going to take any action until there was an agreement and the official saw some money. “We understand that and that’s not a problem,” Barta replied, according to the affidavit.

Following further conversations and emails, Barta told the undercover agent that Barta was “probably ready to move forward.” Buenrostro later told the undercover agent that Barta’s concern was that they would provide the money and not obtain the contract. Buenrostro stated that Barta wanted a written guarantee that the undercover agent would repay the $10,000 if they were not to receive the contract.

Last Friday, Barta, Buenrostro, and Medrano met with the undercover agent at a restaurant in Omaha. Before Barta arrived, Buenrostro told Medrano and the undercover agent that he had spoken to Barta and that Buenrostro and Medrano would be 35 percent minority partners with Barta in the contract they were allegedly scheming to obtain from the fictitious County A official. Barta then arrived at the restaurant and joined the others. The undercover agent explained that half of the good faith money they had been discussing was for his role in brokering the contract and half was for the fictitious County A official. The undercover agent assured Barta that the good faith payment would be refunded if Sav-Rx was did not obtain a contract from County A’s hospital system. After further discussion about the indirect manner that Barta’s payment would be funneled to the fictitious County A official, Barta wrote a check on a Sav-Rx operations account payable to the undercover agent for $6,500 and gave it to the undercover agent.

United States v. Moreno

Moreno was charged with bribery for allegedly accepting a $5,000 down payment on a plan to use his appointed position with the Town of Cicero to approve a waste transfer development in exchange for a stream of payments. Moreno was appointed in May 2010 to Cicero’s Local Business Assistance Committee, a panel that was created to attract businesses to the western suburb.

According to the complaint affidavit, Moreno used his position and influence with Cicero to assist CW1, who was cooperating with law enforcement, in the purported development of a waste transfer station in exchange for payment from CW1 and CW1’s associate.

Moreno allegedly met with CW1 on Sept. 3, 2010 and said he wanted “a little piece” of the proceeds from the waste transfer station, which was envisioned on vacant land at South 54th Avenue and Roosevelt Road in Cicero, according to the complaint. The complaint alleges that Moreno told CW1, “I don’t want to be a hog, I just want to be a pig. Hogs get slaughtered, pigs get fat.”

Moreno allegedly accepted an envelope containing $5,000 cash from CW1 in CW1’s car on Dec. 16, 2010, with CW1 assuring Moreno that CW1’s associate was going to provide an additional $5,000 cash in a couple of weeks. Moreno allegedly believed that he had an agreement with CW1 and CW1’s associate to receive 10 percent of the revenue of the proposed waste transfer station on a continuing basis. In exchange for the bribe, Moreno signed a letter to CW1’s associate assuring his support, as well as that of Cicero officials, for the purported development, the charges allege.

The bribery scheme allegedly began on Aug. 5, 2010, when CW1 recorded a meeting with Moreno while they drove around Cicero in CW1’s car. When they arrived near the site of the proposed waste transfer station, which CW1 told Moreno his associate was seeking to develop, CW1 told Moreno that the station was “huge, big money.” Moreno allegedly responded that he was going to make money from the operation of the station, saying “we are going for a ride.” Moreno told CW1 that he would talk to Attorney A, a municipal lawyer for Cicero, to help the project along, the affidavit states.

CW1 told Moreno that CW1 would buy the land for the facility, and CW1’s business partner would pay rent. In further conversation, Moreno allegedly indicated that he knew a real estate broker and could structure his involvement by receiving kickbacks from the brokers’ fees to hide his receipt of any money. As Moreno was about to depart CW1’s car, he placed a call to Attorney A and left a voicemail message, allowing CW1 to record Moreno saying that he wanted to discuss a certain type of business, and “your friend here (Moreno) could make a couple of bucks.”

On Sept. 3, 2010, Moreno allegedly indicated to CW1 that he believed he was entitled to a significant payment from CW1’s associate because the waste transfer station would not be developed without Moreno’s influence in Cicero and his economic development position. On Sept. 20, 2010, Moreno allegedly told CW1 that Attorney A “said it’s a go,” and high-ranking Town Official A “is all for it.”

CW1 asked if Moreno would take care of the zoning, and Moreno allegedly replied that he would “do everything it needs to get done.” Moreno indicated that he would help CW1 obtain whatever zoning permits the project would need in exchange for payments spread out over time, despite any conflicts with his position on the town committee, the charges allege.

On Oct. 19, 2010, CW1 told Moreno that CW1’s associate was talking about $5,000 up front and then Moreno taking 10 percent of the profits after the station began operating. Moreno allegedly asked if the deal could be sweetened, saying he did not “want to be sloppy, and I don’t want to give it away either,” adding that “thirty-five would be fine. Fifty would be even better.” In a conversation on Oct. 29, 2010, Moreno allegedly said that $5,000 was a little low, but added, “I like the 10 percent going forward, and I like to get a nice pop up front. But I ain’t greedy. I’ll just be a pig.”

On Dec. 1, 2010, CW1 told Moreno that if Moreno gave CW1’s associate an official letter of support from Moreno’s town committee, that CW1’s associate would give Moreno a payment and CW1 would push for the amount to be greater than the $5,000 they initially discussed. On Dec. 9, 2010, CW1 received an email from Moreno’s email account containing a letter and Moreno’s electronic signature. The letter, which is quoted verbatim in the affidavit, assures town support for the purported waste transfer station. The following day, CW1 requested assurance from Moreno that his support was being given as head of the town businesses assistance committee, and Moreno allegedly complied by sending an email addendum providing such assurance.

When they met on Dec. 16, 2010, to exchange payment, CW1 gave Moreno a complete letter with the addendum cut and pasted into the original. Moreno signed the letter in CW1’s presence in exchange for the envelope containing $5,000. When CW1 said that another $5,000 would be paid in a couple of weeks, Moreno allegedly replied “excellent,” and CW1 confirmed that his associate had agreed to raise the initial bribe payment to $10,000 in two installments. As Moreno departed CW1’s car, CW1 made clear that Moreno understood that the cash was from CW1’s associate and not from CW1.

In all three cases, the government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brandon Fox, Christopher J. Stetler and Steven Grimes.

Each bribery count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and conspiracy to commit bribery carries a maximum prison term of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.

The public is reminded that complaints contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      

Romeoville passes some major ethics reforms

Thursday, Jun 28, 2012

* The Village of Romeoville passed some major ethics reforms the other day that the state and other towns ought to consider

The ordinance outlines that any family member of a full-time elected official is ineligible for initial hire or appointment to any full-time employment position with the village.

In addition, to avoid any conflicts of interest, vendors, contractors, and bidders must disclose to the village any interests that anyone associated with them might have in the government of the village such as employment or service on a commission. For contracts more than $100,000, these groups must report all individuals who hold more than one percent ownership and is related to an elected official or employee, if the contractor or vendor employs any elected official or village employee, or if they have any compensated independent contracting or consulting relationship with any elected official or employee within the preceding two years.

In terms of compensation, it clarifies that the village president (mayor) elected in 2013 will be calculated and paid in accordance within the provisions of this ordinance and also prohibits elected officials from receiving compensation from employment, consulting or independent contracting relationships with any city or village contiguous to the village of Romeoville.


- Posted by Rich Miller   6 Comments      

“Volume! Volume! Volume!”

Thursday, Jun 28, 2012

* Business people are always looking for a way to make money. No problem there. But sometimes they do it by taking advantage of the way laws are written. So, for instance, the state video gaming law apparently doesn’t limit the number of licenses that people can have. Therefore, the way to make real money is to open up a whole bunch of small, inexpensive to operate storefronts that focus almost solely on the five video terminals allowed by statute per location

A Springfield company is looking to capitalize on legalized video gambling by setting up a chain of storefront establishments offering video poker and other games along with food, wine and beer.

Lucy’s Place has plans for at least nine stores in the Springfield area and many more throughout central and southern Illinois, company head Chris Stone said.

Locally, the plans hinge on Springfield, Chatham and Sherman changing existing laws that ban video gambling, something all three communities are considering.

Lucy’s Place outlets will have “an upscale neighborhood pub and deli motif.” They will be located primarily in strip malls, according to a business plan the company submitted to the village of Sherman in support of a liquor license application.

The stores will sell prepackaged snacks and offer complimentary coffee, juice and soft drinks to customers, Stone said. There will be a four-drink maximum for alcoholic beverages.

I’ve seen the business plan for one of the proposed locations via a friend who’s not connected to the owners. It’s basically a narrow room with terminals on one wall and a few tables and a bar.

“Prepackaged sandwiches” means it’s not really an “upscale neighborhood pub and deli.” These are basically just mini casinos designed to have very low overhead costs. String enough of them together and you’re looking at some real money here.

* The Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability estimates that each machine would generate $70 to $90 a day for the establishments.

So, that could mean, if all nine Sangamon County stores get liquor licenses and are then approved by the Gaming Board, the chain could make up to $4,050 per day, every day gross. And that’s just Sangamon County. The company has applied for liquor licenses all over the place, including the Metro East. If they end up with, say, 30 storefronts, they’re looking at grossing as much as $13,500 every single day.

The state tax rate is 30 percent (with local governments getting a taste of the state’s end) and there are some annual fees for the machines, but that’s still a pretty darned good daily after-tax gross, if you ask me.

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      

This just in…

Thursday, Jun 28, 2012

* 9:37 am - As you’re probably seeing around the Web, the US Supreme Court has upheld most of the “Obamacare” law. From the SCOTUS Blog

In Plain English: The Affordable Care Act, including its individual mandate that virtually all Americans buy health insurance, is constitutional.

There were not five votes to uphold it on the ground that Congress could use its power to regulate commerce between the states to require everyone to buy health insurance. However, five Justices agreed that the penalty that someone must pay if he refuses to buy insurance is a kind of tax that Congress can impose using its taxing power. That is all that matters.

Because the mandate survives, the Court did not need to decide what other parts of the statute were constitutional, except for a provision that required states to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding. On that question, the Court held that the provision is constitutional as long as states would only lose new funds if they didn’t comply with the new requirements, rather than all of their funding.

The full opinion is here. [Fixed link.]

* 10:33 am - State react is coming in. Sen. Bill Brady…

State Senator Bill Brady issued the following statement following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold key provisions of the federal Affordable Health Care Act, commonly referred to as “Obamacare”:

“Unfortunately, the court’s ruling will have tragic consequences that will spread well beyond the issue of mandatory insurance and health care services. It will drive up health care costs and put yet another financial burden on our already struggling small businesses. We in Illinois will be exploring avenues available for implementing this sweeping law and still providing the greatest options and lowest cost for our families and businesses.”

Brady (R., Bloomington) co-chaired a legislative study committee on the formation of a state health insurance exchange as part of Illinois’ implementation of the law.

* 10:39 am - Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle…

“I applaud today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court upholding the Affordable Care Act.

“In accordance with this historic ruling, the Cook County Health and Hospitals System will continue to seek a 1115 Medicaid Waiver from the work Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This waiver, if approved by the federal government, would permit CCHHS to receive federal reimbursement for the costs of treatment provided to the tens of thousands of our patients who currently have no medical coverage but will gain access to Medicaid on January 1, 2014.

“CCHHS is the foundation of the safety-net health network in northeastern Illinois. Today’s decision by the Supreme Court will allow our system to proactively prepare for Affordable Care Act implementation in 2014.”

* Illinois Hospital Association…

The Illinois Hospital Association (IHA) applauds the United States Supreme Court decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act. Illinois hospitals have long supported the expansion of coverage for the uninsured and reforms to eliminate exclusions for pre-existing conditions and coverage caps to improve the health and well-being of Illinoisans.

Strong communities start with healthy communities. Because of this legislation, people in Illinois will no longer have a diminished quality of life, be at risk of dying merely because they lack health insurance, or be forced into bankruptcy because of a devastating diagnosis.

While many organizations have been waiting for this ruling to act on health care reform initiatives, Illinois hospitals already have been working to transform health care by being more accountable and transparent. Through the IHA Quality Care Institute, Illinois hospitals are implementing quality improvement programs, improving patient safety and infection control, and reducing unnecessary utilization and readmissions. The goal is to create new and efficient models of health care delivery to improve outcomes and lower costs.

In partnership with Governor Quinn and the General Assembly, IHA will continue to help guide Illinois hospitals through the intricacies of health care reform including the implementation of the Illinois Health Insurance Exchange. With the health care reform law upheld, we urge the General Assembly to pass legislation authorizing and establishing the insurance exchange.

* Congressman Quigley…

“I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold health care reform and protect millions of our most vulnerable Americans. Now it’s time to put labels and political rhetoric aside and remember what this is about. An insurance company can no longer deny coverage to the 17 million children with a preexisting condition. Seniors no longer have to choose between paying the rent or buying their prescriptions. And college students will no longer lose their insurance on graduation day. It is our responsibility to provide access to affordable health care to Americans, and today’s victory should bring peace of mind to families across our country.”

* Campaign for Better Health Care…

“Today’s Supreme Court decision helps to strengthen our nation’s tattered social fabric and provides hope that constitutional law and democracy matters,” commented Jim Duffett, Executive Director of the Campaign for Better Health Care.

Duffett continues, “It is time for the obstructionists in the Republican Party in Congress and in Springfield, and a handful of insurance industry backed Democrats in Springfield to stop their crusade against Obamacare. It is time to put America and Illinois first, act like adults, and do something positive for a change that will help small businesses and hard working Americans by implementing Obamacare. Meanwhile, we are urging Governor Quinn to immediately sign an Executive Order and begin implementing the new insurance Marketplace (exchange) so Illinois’ hard working families and small businesses will continue to enjoy the benefits of access to affordable, quality health care.”

Duffett concludes, “Thank you Obamacare and thank you President Obama for keeping your word and delivering for the American people. The United States can now join the rest of the sane western industrial world that provides affordable, accessible and quality health care to its people.”

* 10th CD Democratic nominee Brad Schneider…

“Today’s decision affirmed that all Americans should and will have access to quality and affordable healthcare. After nearly two decades working with family-owned companies, I know we still need to improve the law, working to lower costs for small businesses and their employees. But we can’t afford to go backwards as some Tea Party Republicans in Washington are threatening to repeal the health care law and give insurance companies free reign to abuse consumers. In Congress, I will work to ensure that small businesses can receive tax credits for covering their employees, that young adults can stay on their parent’s health plan, and that denial of coverage for preexisting conditions is a thing of the past.”

* Congressman Schilling…

“Like many folks throughout Illinois’ 17th Congressional District I’m disappointed by today’s ruling, but the fact is that the President’s health care law will cost trillions of dollars while doing absolutely nothing to address the rising cost of health care,” Schilling said. “The opportunity remains for folks in Washington to come together in support of policies that address the rising cost of health care and put patients and their doctors back in charge of health care decisions, without this tax. I will continue working to roll back the harmful parts of this law so we can get health care reform done right. We can start over and in a transparent fashion work to enact bipartisan, step-by-step reforms that guarantee folks in Illinois and throughout the country are able to access health care that is affordable, convenient, and high quality.”

* 10:55 am - Illinois State Medical Society…

After months of uncertainty the U.S. Supreme Court has today affirmed the Affordable Care Act. It is good news that Illinoisans will have the responsibility and tools for obtaining health insurance coverage. It is also positive to note that important coverage provisions, such as the protection against denial for pre-existing conditions, remain in place. However, much work is needed before we can truly call our health system “reformed.”

Among the significant remaining challenges are:

    Medicare Payment Reform – Our Medicare program’s financial health edges closer to a cliff each day Congress fails to enact reform. Currently, physicians face an across-the-board reimbursement cut of about 30% on January 1, 2013. Without Medicare payment reform, our Medicare patients’ access to care is in peril.

    Medicaid Reform – We are still reviewing the section of the opinion that deals with Medicaid. The Affordable Care Act builds coverage through significant Medicaid expansion. This is not a sensible policy in states such as Illinois with struggling Medicaid programs. Patients already receiving care through Medicaid face hurdles that those with other forms of insurance do not. Illinois’ current Medicaid reimbursement levels rank behind 40 states when compared to the Medicare fee schedule. The ACA provides for a temporary and limited Medicaid reimbursement increase, but more must be done to fix this program.

    Medical Liability Reform – Despite a dire need for reform, Illinois courts have struck down strong medical liability protections here on more than one occasion. Federal reform is needed to help Illinois with our medical workforce recruiting. Currently, half of physicians who train here leave after residency. Two-thirds of those who depart cite our liability climate among their chief reasons for leaving. National physician supply projections suggest we will soon have an inadequate number of doctors to meet the needs of our patients. Illinois needs medical liability reform as a component of a comprehensive policy to address our medical workforce needs.

Until we address these issues, our journey toward a sensible and cost-effective health care system is far from over. ISMS has developed our Health Care Reform Principles to assist Congress in crossing the finish line with health reform. We urge them to roll up their sleeves and finish the job.

* Congressman Dold…

“While this ruling speaks to the constitutionality of the ACA, the real question is whether the 2010 law makes for good public policy,” said Congressman Dold. “The American people missed a golden opportunity with health care reform when Congress rushed it through on a partisan basis. I believe that properly confronting the big issues and challenges in this country requires input from both sides and bipartisan support. There are positive provisions in the ACA that should remain as law, but there is more we can do to increase quality and access to care, while reining in skyrocketing costs to the health care system. As health care reform continues to take shape, I am committed to working in a bipartisan way to find positive solutions to the rising costs of health care.”

* Where the states stand, via the AP


NUMBER OF UNINSURED: 1,914,000 state residents are uninsured, or about 15 percent.

WHERE THE STATE STANDS: Illinois has received three federal grants to study and start building its health insurance exchange, but the Legislature has failed to pass a law establishing it. Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, has considered an executive order to do that, but now may pursue a federal-state partnership instead.

* 11:20 am - US Sen. Mark Kirk…

“While I respect the Court’s decision, the health care law threatens our economic recovery by raising taxes, imposing new regulations and creating a drag on the economy,” said Senator Kirk. “Congress should repeal the health care law and replace it with common sense, centrist reforms that give Americans the right to buy insurance across state lines and expand coverage without raising taxes, while blocking the government from coming between patients and their doctors.”

* 12th CD Republican candidate Jason Plummer…

“The Supreme Court’s decision today does not change the fact that Obamacare is an unworkable and unaffordable piece of legislation that is not right for the American people,” Plummer said. “The Court’s ruling that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and a tax goes against everything the President and his allies said as they were trying to pass the law, and puts an increased burden on working families.

“This bill must be repealed before it causes any more damage to the economy. Not only does it cut $500 billion from the Medicare program, but it also raises taxes on the middle class in the midst of a recession,” Plummer added. “Estimates from the Congressional Budget Office have even shown that the legislation could reduce employment by 800,000 workers.

“The American people need true healthcare reform, not government-run healthcare. Doctors and families need to be in charge of making healthcare decisions, not unelected bureaucrats. We need to continue the fight to repeal this law and then work together to pass true healthcare reform in a transparent manner than helps improve individuals’ coverage and gets costs under control for all Americans.” [Emphasis added.]

* 11:26 am - The NCSL has a great summary of the decision. Click here to see it.

* Sun-Times

Gov. Quinn is “thrilled” with the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding President Obama’s health care law, his aides said Thursday.

The governor is expected to hold a news conference this afternoon and provide further reaction.

* Congressman Roskam

“The Supreme Court’s ruling examined the Constitutionality of the health care law, but the Justices could not take into account the practicality or effectiveness of a government takeover of our health care system and one-sixth of our economy—on that score, the verdict was in long ago.

“The American people are disappointed in this law and fearful of its full effects because so far, the rhetoric does not match up to the reality. Remember when the president said, ‘If you like what you have, you can keep it?’ Some estimates say up to 30 percent of employers will definitely drop their employee health coverage, forcing many into state exchanges.

“Remember when we were promised the law would lower costs? Family premiums have already increased by 9 percent, with costs predicted to rise for years to come. And what of the promise that the law would bend the cost curve down? Recent studies show that government spending is expected to explode to half of all health care spending in the United States. One of the few promises that came true was when then Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, ‘We have to pass the law to find out what’s in it.’

“President Obama’s takeover not only made our health care system more complex and expensive, but stalled our already tepid economic recovery by creating tremendous uncertainty for job creators and small businesses.

“The House of Representatives is as committed as ever to full repeal of the disastrous health care law, and replacing it with common-sense, patient-centered solutions that families can afford. The American people deserve better than what President Obama’s health care law provides. We can do better and we will do better.”

* More from the Right

John Tillman, executive director of the Illinois Policy Institute, a right-leaning think tank, disagreed, saying the Affordable Care Act will strain the health-care system as the federal government struggles to come up with the money to pay for it. Tillman said the law as is will force “children with throat cancer or other serious conditions to compete with even more people for fewer and fewer doctors.” […]

“The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold ObamaCare – and specifically the individual mandate – was a severe blow to restoring Constitutional limits on federal power,” Tillman said. “Congress must repeal all of ObamaCare and replace it with reforms that put patients first.”

Even if the law survives additional attacks, Thursday’s ruling was only the start.

“It is impossible to enact the act as written,” Robert Slayton, president of the Illinois State Association of Health Underwriters, which lobbies on behalf of health insurers, said. Congress “will spend the next 10 years modifying the act to make it work the way it needs to work.”

* Excerpted from an SEIU Healthcare release…

Now that the court – in an opinion authored by its conservative Chief Justice – has given its seal of approval to this law, the time has come for Republicans to put the economic interests of working families ahead of the political interest of their party. The time has come for a bipartisan commitment in Washington to fully implement the Affordable Care Act, so we can help cure the ailing U.S. economy.

We call on Illinois’ Republican Congressional delegation to join in that commitment. Any energy spent on a futile and time-consuming effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act will only divert attention away from the issue foremost on the minds of Illinois residents: our state’s economic recovery.

And the Affordable Care Act will be instrumental in aiding the state’s economy by making health care more affordable and accessible. For instance, in Illinois alone, the law as already generated the following rewards:

    Ø More than 3.6 million residents became entitled to preventative medical services, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, without having to pay deductibles or co-pays.

    Ø More than 100,000 uninsured young adults under the age of 26 became eligible for coverage under the parents’ health insurance.

    Ø More than 150,000 seniors with Medicare received a $250 rebate to cover the cost of their prescription drugs once they hit the so-called donut hole.

* 11:56 am - Congressman Joe Walsh…

“Today, I, along with most Americans, am disappointed with the Supreme Court decision. It is now clear that the only way to repeal this law is legislatively,” Walsh said. “Today’s decision only affirms what we have known all along - the President’s health care plan is a massive tax increase. The President insisted that his health care plan would not cost the American people anything, but that is just untrue. To be clear, this is not a tax on wealthy Americans who already have insurance. This tax hits the 44 million uninsured Americans, who are already struggling and cannot afford to pay more hard-earned income in taxes.

“The American people deserve a choice in their health care plans, not government mandates. The President’s health care plan is an unworkable mega-bill that will destroy small businesses, kill jobs, stunt economic growth, and bankrupt the nation.

“My opponent, Tammy Duckworth, a true tax-and-spend liberal, supports this new tax on the Middle Class. In fact, not only does Tammy support the President’s current tax and spend health care plan, but she is on record supporting a single-payer socialized system. I, however, will make it my top priority to repeal this massive tax increase and the President’s entire health care plan.

“As a new member of Congress, I turned down my gold-plated Congressional health care plan. Instead, I chose to buy my insurance on the open market, and I know firsthand how difficult it is to find affordable, quality health insurance. The Supreme Court’s decision has finally ended the debate in Washington. The American people will decide where we get from here.”

* 12:36 pm - Comptroller Topinka…

Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka warned lawmakers on Thursday that the Supreme Court’s ruling on the federal Affordable Care Act could lead to hundreds of thousands of new residents enrolling for Medicaid coverage, and cost the state up to $2.4 billion over the next six years.

The forewarning from the state Fiscal Officer comes after the Court ruled that the federal government can tax residents that do not have health insurance. Given the decision, uninsured residents that qualify for Medicaid are expected to increasingly enroll in the program, and cost the state up to $2.4 billion over six years in the process.

“There is no doubt that this will cost the state, the only question is how much?” Topinka said. “We have thousands of residents around the state that are eligible for Medicaid but have never enrolled for one reason or another. We expect they will increasingly come forward, and I urge lawmakers to start saving now for those added costs.”

Medicaid currently accounts for more than 20 percent of the state budget and continues to grow. Underfunded, the program will end the fiscal year June 30 with an estimated $2 billion in unpaid bills. In an attempt to address those realities, members of the General Assembly this Spring voted to limit services and cut an estimated $2 billion from the program.

“Illinois is a textbook example of what can happen if financial challenges are not proactively addressed,” Topinka said. “The state needs to learn from experience, and take steps today to address the increased Medicaid costs that will occur in coming months and years.”

* 2:23 pm - I’m just getting back from a late lunch, but this came in around 1:30. Democratic congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth…

“As someone who survived a serious health crisis I understand how important it is to have affordable and quality healthcare. The ruling today is a victory for children with preexisting conditions who can’t be denied coverage, women who can’t be charged a higher premium, seniors who won’t suddenly find themselves without coverage, and young adults who will be covered under their parents until they are 26. However, I’m still concerned that ACA places an unfair burden on employers, especially our small businesses. We will need to evaluate these provisions as we move forward. I look forward to getting to Washington, rolling up my sleeves and getting to work.”

* Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky…

“Today is a historic day when the Supreme Court declared that the Affordable Care Act and the health security it brings is the law of the land. With President Obama’s leadership, Congress enacted the most significant law in half a century. The law ends insurance industry abuses in the health system, improves Medicare and Medicaid for seniors and the disabled, and covers millions of uninsured Americans. Today, Republicans need to finally put to rest the relentless, partisan attacks against a landmark law that is already working to provide affordable, high-quality care.

Over 86 million Americans have already received one or more free preventive services because of Obamacare, while 6.6 million young adults up to age 26 have taken advantage of the law to obtain health insurance through their parents’ plan. This positive decision by the nation’s highest court in the land should resolve any doubts that Congress can and should act to ensure that Americans get the health care they need at a price they can afford. It will allow us to move forward and maintain our commitment to real health care security.

Today’s Supreme Court decision is a victory for Illinoisans like 11-year old Olivia, who suffered a stroke at birth and no longer endures private insurance company abuses like pre-existing condition exclusions. Thanks to Obamacare, up to 17 million children nationwide with pre-existing conditions are no longer denied coverage by insurers and being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition. Today is a victory for Illinois seniors like Ann, who is saving about $1200 this year because Obamacare is lowering her drug costs and closing the Medicare donut hole. Over 5 million American seniors in the ‘donut hole’ have saved $3.7 billion on their prescription drugs, including 152,170 Illinois seniors.

When Obamacare is fully implemented, exclusions for pre-existing conditions like cancer, heart disease, and AIDS will be a thing of the past. No longer will families be bankrupt because someone gets sick. People with mental illness will get the care they need.

Today is a day for celebration. Tomorrow we will get back to work ensuring that every American can take advantage of the benefits of Obamacare and have access to affordable, comprehensive and high quality health care. ”

* State Rep. ason Barickman (R-Champaign)…

“I stand with my colleagues at the Congressional level and here in Illinois in support of repealing Obamacare. The American people have in large part rejected the components of Obamacare and have repeatedly stated that they do not want their personal healthcare decisions to be dictated by Washington politicians. We need responsible health care reform that allows families to choose their own physician and have access to the care they need.

Obamacare has only acted to make our economic problems worse. The President’s health care initiative imposed burdensome regulations on our jobs providers, making it more difficult for small businesses to hire workers. We continue to see health care costs rise at unaffordable levels for Illinois families under Obamacare. This law will drastically limit our ability to manage state finances and implement the necessary cost controls to our health care programs that are needed to erase our multi-billion dollar budget deficit.

Today’s decision is another reminder that the best way to insure a limited and fiscally responsible government is at the ballot box this November.”


When Barack Obama ran for President, he promised no tax increases on the middle class. But the only way he could convince the Supreme Court to approve ObamaCare was to call it a new “tax.” Promise made – Promise Broken.

This comes as no surprise since Barack Obama spent his formative political years in Springfield being trained by Illinois Democrats like Mike Madigan, who through years of mismanagement, have led Illinois to having the worst budget deficit, credit rating, pension debt and business climate in the nation – and last year a 67% Tax Hike in the middle of the night on the last day of a lame duck session of the state legislature after many of his party members promised to oppose any such tax hike. Promise Made – Promise Broken.

It’s now up to us, the voters, to stop these reckless tax hikes and spending schemes that will lead to the implosion of our health care system, an explosion of our national and state debt and economic uncertainty for millions of job creators.

Here in Illinois, we are leading the fight by opening victory centers throughout the state to help elect more anti-tax Republicans to Washington and Springfield to keep Nancy Pelosi from becoming Speaker again and to end the decades-long rule of Mike Madigan, who is more interested in raising taxes and lining his pockets from his campaign contributors and law firm clients than he is in turning around our economy through fiscally conservative, pro-economic growth policies.

Our Victory Centers in 2010 led the nation in calls made and doors knocked on to reverse the Democratic tide right in Barack Obama’s own home state and we can continue the momentum in 2012 – with your help.

Please go to to make a quick, secure online donation to help stop the ObamaCare/Madigan Tax Hikes. For a long-term, sustaining commitment, you can become a member at

Please give whatever you can afford – every donation helps our cause!

Thank you!

* House GOP Leader Tom Cross…

“We have made tremendous efforts this year in Illinois to reduce our state run healthcare program, because we could no longer afford to provide the services that were once promised. Today’s Supreme Court decision affirms a federal law that has the potential to pile billions of dollars of additional expenses into our state budget that we cannot afford. We are encouraging Congress to repeal Obamacare at the federal level as soon as possible, and provide Illinois the ability to administer an efficient Medicaid program.”

* Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno…

“While the U.S. Supreme Court has settled the legal argument, the debate over whether it is good policy or not will continue for months. We will be very carefully reviewing the decision for opportunities to reduce any negative impact of the Affordable Care Act and its tax on Illinois citizens. The Senate Republican Caucus has worked to cut costs in the state’s Medicaid program – targeting the waste, fraud and abuse that costs taxpayers hundreds of millions each year.”

* Gov. Pat Quinn…

“Today is a great day for Illinois and a great day for our country. This decision means that millions of working families across Illinois will continue to receive better healthcare.

“These historic reforms that are strengthening our healthcare system will continue to benefit young people, those with pre-existing conditions and care providers.

“We took a big step forward today as a nation and state, and I will continue to work with President Obama to help working families get the healthcare coverage they need.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   106 Comments      

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Thursday, Jun 28, 2012

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“Criminal inaction”

Thursday, Jun 28, 2012

* This is just incomprehensible to me

The state agency created to prevent neglect and abuse of disabled adults who live at home rejects hundreds of hotline calls for help each year and doesn’t investigate when people die after severe mistreatment. […]

But when the subject of a hotline call is hospitalized and dies soon after, the OIG closes the case without investigating the circumstances surrounding the death because of the agency’s interpretation of state law. According to OIG documents, the agency is prohibited from investigating the moment a death occurs.

The OIG considers such an investigation a “service,” and the dead are “ineligible for services” under the agency’s interpretation of Rule 51 — a legislative directive that governs the Adults with Disabilities Abuse Project, the OIG documents state.

What the Office of Inspector General is saying is just bizarre. If the person surves the alleged abuse, then there will be a full investigation. But if the patient dies, possibly of extreme neglect, then there will be no investigation because the dead person is “ineligible for services.”

That sounds like something right out of Kafka.

What the heck is going on over at the Department of Human Services?

* Kudos to the Belleville News Democrat for unearthing these atrocities

Nurses, doctors, social workers or hospital staff called the state abuse hotline in nearly half of the 53 deaths examined by the News-Democrat. But even demands from medical professionals asking why a disabled adult ended up in their emergency room, often in horrible condition, did not prompt the OIG to investigate.

Those deaths included Barbara Coleman, a 56-year-old Pittsfield woman dying from kidney failure who was taken to a Springfield emergency room on Nov. 18, 2009, with a large abscess on her neck filled with maggots. She died two days later.

“Based on the facts here, we conclude the following: (Coleman) passed away at the hospital and the assessment could not be completed. Therefore, we stopped this assessment process without a finding,” the OIG case file concluded.

Bonnie Matyasik, 51, who was suffering from end-stage cirrhosis, arrived at an emergency room Jan. 26, 2009, near Chicago with dried feces in her hair and under her fingernails. Matyasik was bruised and scraped along one entire side of her body from being dragged across a concrete floor by her mentally impaired caregiver. She died two days later.

On May 6, 2011, authorities responding to a 911 call found Kevin Kage, the 1986 Illinois muscular dystrophy poster child, lying in a bed soiled with feces and urine, unable to move and covered with bedsores that had eaten through flesh to the bone. The 33-year-old Kage died four days later in the intensive care unit of a Wisconsin hospital.


* Some heads really need to roll here

The law in part reads: “This Act shall be liberally construed and applied to promote its underlying purposes, which are to prevent, reduce and eliminate abuse, neglect and exploitation of adults with disabilities.”

“It breaks your heart to see anybody subjected to this kind of abuse and the state not taking appropriate action,” said former state Rep. Lee Daniels, R-Elmhurst, who helped guide passage of the bill. “To allow this to continue is criminal inaction.”

Thomas F. Coleman, the attorney for the Disability and Abuse Project in Los Angeles, a private coalition of medical professionals and volunteers dedicated to assisting the disabled, reviewed the 2000 Illinois statute and Rule 51.

“These laws do not state that an investigation need not be done if the victim is not receiving services. So the ‘no services because they are dead’ excuse is just that — a shallow and meaningless excuse for closing a case. There is no statutory authorization to close an investigation or refuse to initiate one because the victim is dead,” he said. “Whoever came up with that rule should be exposed.”

Go read the whole thing.


- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      

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