SPRINGFIELD – In an effort to increase awareness and fund more research for serious diseases, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today signed two bills that will allow Illinoisans to contribute to the fight against disease. The first law provides an avenue for more money to fund colorectal cancer awareness and honors longtime State Senator Vince Demuzio. Sen. Demuzio, the longest serving member of the Illinois State Senate, lost his battle to colon cancer in April of 2004. The second law provides the same avenue to raise money for Sarcoidosis research. Sarcoidosis is a disease that causes inflammation, or swelling, of the body's tissues.
“As Governor, part of my job is to help Illinoisans live healthier lives. That’s why we are doing all we can to expand access to healthcare for working families, raise awareness of how important it is to be screened for cancer and by funding critical medical research. By signing these bills today, we may be able to save people from very serious illnesses,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
Senate Bill 133 creates the Vince Demuzio Memorial Colon Cancer Fund. Money collected in this fund will be given to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to establish and maintain a public awareness campaign in target areas in Illinois with high colon cancer mortality rates. The campaign will be developed in conjunction with recommendations made by the American Cancer Society.
“Vince Demuzio dedicated his life to serving the people of this state until cancer took him from us last year. I think this is a fitting way to honor his memory while raising awareness about colorectal cancer, which affects so many Illinois families,” said the Governor.
The late Sen. Demuzio, a resident of Carlinville, was first elected to the General Assembly in 1974 at the age of 33. Demuzio earned his bachelor’s degree in 1981 and his master’s in 1996, both from what is now the University of Illinois at Springfield. From 1986 until 1990, he served as the state chair of the Democratic Party, the first downstate official to hold the post in decades.
Sen. Deanna Demuzio was appointed to her husband’s seat after his death.
“Colorectal cancer often has no symptoms, which is why a public awareness campaign is so important,” said Sen. Deanna Demuzio (D-Carlinville). “People need to be made aware of the risk factors and how important it is to be screened for the disease. I lost my husband to this disease and I want to do everything I can to help prevent others from dying of colon cancer.”
The legislation was co-sponsored by state Rep. Gary Hannig (D-Gillespie).
“I was honored to sponsor this legislation in memory of my dear friend, Vince Demuzio, whose life was cut short by colon cancer. If we can increase awareness of this disease, more lives may be able to be saved,” said Rep. Hannig.
Excluding skin cancer, colorectal cancer (colon and rectum) is the third most common cancer found in men and women in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be about 104,950 new cases of colon cancer and 40,340 new cases of rectal cancer in 2005 in this country. Combined, they will cause about 56,290 deaths.
In 2002 in Illinois, there were 7,147 people (all races) diagnosed with colorectal cancer with a rate of 58.2 per 100,000 population. The colorectal cancer rate was the highest among African Americans (68.5) and was the lowest among Hispanics (40.7). Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the state, with 2,705 deaths in Illinois in 2002, and more than 3,000 deaths projected for 2005.
Risk factors include a personal or family history of colorectal cancer, colon polyps, or inflammatory bowel disease, age, smoking, physical inactivity and a low-fiber, high-fat diet. When found and treated early, colon cancer can often be cured. People with a family history of colorectal cancer may benefit from starting screening tests when they are younger and having them done more often than people without this risk factor.
“The American Cancer Society is appreciative of the leadership and commitment made by Sen. Deanna Demuzio and Gov. Blagojevich, to make Illinoisans aware of the benefits of colorectal cancer screening,” said Adrienne E. White, vice president of Health Initiatives and Advocacy, American Cancer Society. “The reality is, colorectal cancer, when detected early, has survival rates of more than 90 percent. Yet, fewer than 25 percent of Americans, age 50 and older, follow early detection screening guidelines. If we can increase the screening rates through education, we can raise the five-year survival rate significantly from the current rate of just 64 percent.”
The second new law the Governor signed today creates the Sarcoidosis Research Fund. Funds raised by the check off created by House Bill 2470 will go toward grants for Sarcoidosis research.
HB 2470 was sponsored by state Rep. Constance A. Howard (D-Chicago) and state Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago).
Rep. Howard introduced the legislation after several people with Sarcoidosis told her about the disease.
“A number of people began telling me about this strange sounding disease that causes them all sorts of problems, including lung problems,” said Rep. Howard. “I suffer from asthma and I know what it’s like to not be able to breathe, which is a problem that some victims of the disease struggle with. There didn’t seem to be a lot of research being done and I felt that a tax checkoff would be a good way to raise funds for that purpose. More research needs to be done to help prevent the pain and suffering that its victims endure.”
“Sarcoidosis is a chronic disease that greatly impacts people’s lives,” said Hunter. "There is not a great understanding of this disease, therefore more research must be conducted in order to provide treatment, educate and promote awareness,” said Sen. Hunter.
Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease characterized by widespread lesions that may affect any organ or tissue of the body. The liver is frequently affected, as are the skin, lungs, lymph nodes, spleen, eyes and small bones of the hands and feet. The disease occurs predominately between the ages of 20 to 40, affects more women than men and occurs more often in African Americans.
Sarcoidosis, which has an unknown cause, is generally a chronic disease, lasting for several years or a lifetime. Some people, however, may have a type that only lasts a few months. Most people have no symptoms, while others may have symptoms that include: skin, lung or eye problems, arthritis, myositis, fever, fatigue and weight loss.
Treatment can control symptoms or improve the function of organs affected by the disease. Not everyone requires treatment and treatment may or may not affect the long-term outcome of the disease.
About 50 percent of Sarcoidosis patients improve spontaneously. The disease is fatal in less than 5 percent of patients.
The Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research (FSR), an organization that independently funds sarcoidosis research, was a proponent of the legislation.
“FSR feels strongly that the causes of this disease, and ultimately a cure, will be uncovered through rigorous and extensive scientific research,” said Andrea Wilson, FSR president and founder. “We commend Governor Blagojevich and the Illinois legislature for their efforts to raise important research funds that will benefit the many patients in Illinois who suffer from this common, yet devastating disease."
Both new laws change the Illinois Income Tax Act to create tax checkoffs for the two funds. Taxpayers may contribute to the fund by indicating on their income tax return form the amount they wish to donate. The amount pledged will either decrease the amount of a refund or increase the amount due. All donations are tax deductible. Funds must generate a minimum of $100,000 in order to appear on the next year’s tax form.
The new laws are effective Jan. 1, 2006, and the funds will be included on the 2005 Illinois 1040 income tax return.
IDPH administers three other funds that taxpayers can contribute to: Alzheimer’s Disease Research Fund, Lou Gehrig’s Disease Research Fund and the Penny Severns Breast and Cervical Cancer Research Fund.
“With today’s signing of these laws, Illinois taxpayers will have an opportunity to help improve the health and lives of other Illinois residents,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director. “Over the years, Illinois taxpayers have shown their generosity by contributing to other health-related funds that have benefited citizens throughout the state.”
Today’s announcement is part of Governor Blagojevich’s long standing effort to make sure that more people get more health care and better benefits, protect coverage for those who have health care, and help hospitals, doctors and nurses provide better health care. Specifically:
· Best in the nation for providing health care to the working poor: Since Governor Blagojevich took office, 313,000 more men, women and children have received health care through the KidCare and FamilyCare programs – at a time when most states are not only not providing more coverage for the working poor, but also kicking people off of Medicaid or significantly reducing their benefits. This year’s budget included funding to add another 56,000 men, women and children. The Kaiser Foundation has ranked Illinois the best state in the nation for providing health care to people who need it.
· One of only a handful of states to protect Medicaid recipients: The budget signed by Governor Blagojevich a few weeks ago ensures – for the third consecutive year, despite facing budget deficits – that Medicaid recipients maintain their health care, unlike states ranging from Missouri to Tennessee to Texas to Washington who are either kicking people off of Medicaid or significantly reducing benefits.
· First state to develop a statewide small business health insurance pool and program: Governor Blagojevich and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce are developing a small business health insurance program that will help small businesses reduce their costs by 10-15% and provide more health care for their employees. Illinois will be the first state to create a pool where businesses of 50 employees or less can join, saving money on the negotiated rate, administrative costs and broker fees.
· First state to make rx drugs from Europe and Canada available: Under Governor Blagojevich, Illinois became the first state to allow its citizens to purchase prescription drugs from Europe and Canada. More than 10,000 people have enrolled in the last few months alone to take advantage of lower prices (25-50% less) for over 120 name brand prescription drugs.
· Most comprehensive state response to fill in gaps in the federal rx drug benefit: This spring, the General Assembly passed the Governor’s Leave No Senior Behind legislation, which is Illinois’ response to the federal Medicare rx drug benefit. Because of the major holes in the federal program, the Governor’s plan fills in the gaps, so Illinois seniors will not suffer the same fate that face seniors in other states.
· First state to require pharmacists to dispense female contraceptives: In April, Governor Blagojevich issued an emergency rule requiring pharmacists whose pharmacies sell contraception to dispense birth control to women with valid prescriptions. The Governor’s emergency rule will become permanent this summer. In addition, the state will soon launch a new website to help women know which insurers now cover contraceptives, helping hundreds of thousands of women save an average of $400/ year on the cost of their contraceptives.
· Improving women’s health programs: Governor Blagojevich created the Illinois Healthy Women program to provide health care to women who otherwise would go without. To date, the program has served more than 90,000 women. In addition, Illinois has dramatically increased the number of mammograms and cervical cancer screenings since Governor Blagojevich took office.
· Accessing nearly $2 billion in new federal health care money: This summer, Governor Blagojevich will sign the hospital assessment legislation, which means nearly $2 billion in new federal funding for Illinois hospitals. Last year, the Governor persuaded the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to approve a plan that meant nearly $500 million in new federal funds for Illinois hospitals. This plan, which requires federal approval but was constructed with their guidelines in mind, means more than three times that amount.
· Medical Malpractice Reform: This summer, Governor Blagojevich will sign major medical malpractice reform legislation, which will reduce the cost of insurance premiums for doctors and stop doctors from leaving the state. Governor Blagojevich helped pass the legislation despite his personal opposition to caps, because making sure that people have access to health care is probably the most important function government performs.
· Reducing the nursing shortage: This summer, Governor Blagojevich will sign a package of bills aimed at reducing the nursing shortage in Illinois, including making it easier for foreign nurses to practice in Illinois. The state also eliminated the nurses registration backlog this April and increased the amount available in grants for nurses training. This fulfills the initiative launched by the Governor in his State of the State address to reduce the nursing shortage.