CHICAGO – Gov. Pat Quinn has taken action on two legislative proposals aimed at helping consumers avoid additional fees, but some lawmakers and advocates on Wednesday questioned his use of amendatory veto power on a plan designed to help cut medical bills.
The Chicago Democrat signed legislation Wednesday giving workers paid through so-called "payroll cards" other salary payment options, a move that came a day after he altered a highly-technical plan addressing bills for some types of medical lab work.
The legislation he changed Tuesday evening focused on anatomic pathology lab work, such as pap smears and blood work, and requires physicians ordering the work to detail services and fees. Lawmakers say the legislation was prompted by allegations of doctors padding bills.
Quinn, using his amendatory veto power for the first time this year, proposed giving the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation authority to revoke, suspend or deny renewal of a physician's license for violating the rules in the plan while still ensuring physicians could choose labs they wanted to work with. In his veto message, he said marking up medical bills "harm patients" but it was also important to "provide physicians a choice."
The move — with a nod to both doctors and patients — left some perplexed.
While Quinn has used other veto powers on the budget lawmakers sent him this year, he hasn't often exercised amendatory vetoes.
State Sen. William Haine, an Alton Democrat who sponsored the proposal, said he wasn't consulted and simple follow-up legislation could have produced the same result without going back to legislators on a plan that was widely supported. He said he was reviewing Quinn's alterations and wanted to hear from legislative leaders and stakeholders, including the insurance industry.
"I'm not decided on how to approach it," he said. "There are many players beyond me."
Opponents said that even after Quinn's changes, the plan didn't fairly address pathologist fees. Illinois Dermatological Society president Dr. Amy Derick said one effect of the legislation could be Illinois losing profits on lab work sent out of state. She said the group planned to fight the legislation, claiming lawmakers had only been presented one side.
Legislators in both chambers approved the plan with more than the three-fifths vote needed to override Quinn's amendatory veto.
Quinn said Wednesday he reviewed and "improved" the plan but didn't elaborate on his reasons.
He spoke to reporters after signing payroll legislation, saying no one should have to pay to access their own salary.
Payroll cards allow workers to withdraw salaries from an ATM, like debit cards. But Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who backed the legislation, said her office received complaints about extra fees that were cutting into salaries. Madigan said minimum wage workers were among those affected. The law, which says workers should be offered other options like paper checks, takes effect January 2015.