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Around the state 12-18-17

Lawmakers fear low Medicaid-provider rates could doom plan
SPRINGFIELD (AP) — Lawmakers question whether reimbursement rates in an expanded managed care health plan will be sufficient to keep insurers providing service.
Gov. Bruce Rauner's Department of Healthcare and Family Services is spending $60 billion to expand managed care for Medicaid clients. Officials say it will save $1 billion because of the low rates insurers accepted to participate.
The House Appropriations-Human Services Committee grilled officials Monday in Chicago over the issue.
Chicago Democratic Rep. Greg Harris is committee chairman. He says insurers will pull out if rates are too low.
Consultant Robert Damler of the actuarial firm Milliman says the state's contract requires insurers to deliver service.
But Harris points out Milliman worked in Iowa too. Critics say that program is collapsing after insufficient reimbursement forced one of three insurers to bolt.
Illinois joins communications network for first responders
WHEELING (AP) — Illinois has decided to join dozens of other states in a national communications network for first responders.
Gov. Bruce Rauner announced Monday that Illinois would join the FirstNet program. The governor's office says the network is being built, operated and maintained at no cost to participating states through a public-private partnership between FirstNet and AT&T. State officials say it will provide enhanced wireless broadband technology to public safety workers statewide.
FirstNet comes out of a 9/11 Commission finding that clogged communication lines made it difficult to warn firefighters that the twin towers were collapsing. It is an independent authority within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
Illinois State Police Director Leo Schmitz says the network will give first responders the "best possible chance to save lives and provide aid to the injured."
Alton state representative Beiser officially steps down
ALTON (AP) — Illinois state Rep. Dan Beiser of Alton says he's officially stepping down to spend more time with his family.
Beiser announced in August that he wouldn't run for re-election in the 111th District seat so he could enjoy his retirement. On Sunday the Democrat said in a statement that he would step down effective that day.
Beiser was appointed to fill a vacancy left when former state Rep. Steve Davis of Bethalto resigned in 2004. He was elected and re-elected six times. Beiser is a former special education teacher, Alton alderman and city treasurer. He said serving his community has been a privilege and "one of the greatest honors of my life."
Metra to modify train schedules during holiday season
CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago-area commuter rail agency says it's modifying travel schedules and offering passes for unlimited travel during the holiday season.
Metra says the $8 passes will allow unlimited travel from Dec. 23 to Dec. 25 and from Dec. 30 to Jan. 1. Up to three children age 11 and under will be able to ride free with adults in the last two weeks of December.
On some December days, Metra will also add earlier afternoon departures from downtown stations to give commuters a jump-start on getting home. Some regular rush-hour trains will also be canceled.
Metra plans to hold the last train of the night from Chicago for New Year's Eve festivities.

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