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Tom Cullerton fights to ensure insurance companies cover costs for children’s healthcare

tc 062717SPRINGFIELD— Children may soon no longer be denied treatment for PANDAS disease, thanks to Villa Park Democratic State Senator Tom Cullerton. 

Cullerton’s lifesaving initiative that will require Insurance companies to offer coverage for treatments of PANDAS — Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal Infections — passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support. 

Cullerton has been working with the group PANDAS/PANS Advocacy for the last four years to raise awareness and require insurance companies to cover the cost of treatment for this fairly unknown disease that affects approximately 1 in 2,000 children throughout the United States.

“As the father of three young sons, I know as a parent you do whatever you can to protect your children from unnecessary pain,” Cullerton said. “I have been honored to work with these incredible advocates from PANDAS/PANS Advocacy, to support Illinois’ children in receiving essential treatment and raising awareness of this tormenting disease.”

Cullerton first became aware of PANDAS four years ago after meeting with the group formed by Executive Director Wendy Nawara and Vice President Kate Drury of PANDAS/PANS Advocacy & Support, whose children have suffered from PANDAS to raise awareness of symptoms and to require insurance companies to cover the cost of treatment for this fairly unknown illness.

PANDAS and PANS is the result of an abnormal immune response to common infections such as strep throat, walking pneumonia, mononucleosis and other similar infections.

Drury saw a drastic change in her son Charlie overnight, who once loved performing in talent shows and putting on skits. He woke up on his 8th birthday scared of crowds and of talking to his friends.

After two months of looking for answers, a doctor diagnosed Charlie with PANDAS. Insurance companies didn’t cover the cost for his treatment, which can run upwards of $12,000 in hospital bills.  

“As a parent, it is so hard to watch your child completely deteriorate in front of your eyes. You go to the doctor, get a diagnosis, and then are unable to access the treatment that doctor prescribes. The biggest problem our families have faced is that we've not been able to rely on our insurance plans to cover the doctor recommended, medically necessary care required,” said Nawara.  “This treatment gives our kids their lives back. We have needed this for a long time. Our families are so grateful that Illinois is taking these steps to help us."

HB 2721 will provide that all individual and group plans of accident and health insurance must offer coverage for treatment PANDAS and PANS. Once this measure is signed into law it will be known as “Charlie’s Law.”

Symptoms range from severe separation anxiety to motor tics that appear similar to seizures and hallucinations. There is a drastic change in behavior that often becomes severe enough to prevent children from attending school, not completing basic tasks like taking a shower or accepting a hug from their loved ones and avoiding extracurricular activities due to social anxiety.

Cullerton pledges to continue to work to raise awareness and support to help children like Charlie.

“There are effective treatments for children inflicted with PANDAS and PANS,” Cullerton said. “It’s common sense to make sure there is treatment readily available to quickly treat children inflicted with PANDAS without loading Illinois’ parents with mountains of debt.”

House Bill 2721 now moves to the governor’s desk for consideration.  Cullerton is hopeful the governor will approve this measure.

Cullerton and Sanders agree school funding changes good for DuPage Schools

tcullerton 022817 178BARTLETT- State Senator Tom Cullerton passed a series of reforms to help lower Bartlett property taxes and ensure DuPage schools are fairly funded.

Cullerton worked to pass a series of reforms that will lead to property tax savings through government consolidation measures, property tax relief and working to guarantee Illinois schools are funded the right way.

Senate Bill 3, which will spread Cullerton’s bipartisan government consolidation model statewide, passed the Senate and House with bipartisan support. This measure will allow counties to dissolve certain units of local government through a voter referendum.

“My goal is to save money, reduce taxes and make sure government is working for the people,” Cullerton said “The best way to lower property taxes is to put government consolidation decisions in the hands of the people who receive the services. This one small step will lower property tax bills and streamline government services.”

Cullerton supported Senate Bill 1, which will help schools such as U-46 and District 300, which have been shortchanged for decades under the existing education funding formula. These districts could soon see a significant increase of funding to level the playing field with neighboring school districts but not at the expense of other school districts. No school district in Illinois will lose funding under the new proposed formula.

The increase in funding to schools passed by the Senate this legislative session will work toward giving schools in need of extra support based on an evidence-based model that accounts for factors such as students with disabilities and low-income students.

U-46 Superintendent Tony Sanders joined superintendents, school administrators and educators across DuPage County and Illinois to support Senate Bill 1.

“We’re grateful for all legislators who supported this significant school funding legislation but especially local legislators like Sen. Tom Cullerton. Senate Bill one is for us--the kids, families, and educators who make up the heart of U-46,” said Sanders. “SB1 aligns to the mission and values of the Governor's school funding reform commission. No district loses money but we’ll finally see equity in that state funds will better support both low-income and low property wealth districts."

The state’s school funding formula has not been updated in more than 20 years and is considered one of the worst in the nation because it relies so heavily on local property taxes. Cullerton believes this funding plan will help DuPage residents in Bartlett, Carol Stream and Hanover Park see lower property tax bills.

“Illinois needs to move toward a school funding system that is fair and gives all children, regardless of their ZIP code, a chance to succeed,” Cullerton said. “We are evening the playing field for children in districts such as U-46 and District 300 but not at the expense of the children attending other DuPage County school districts. This funding method will move Illinois from a formula with winners and losers to a system that gives all of the children across our communities an opportunity to succeed.”

For a list of school districts in the 23rd Senate District, Cullerton urges area residents to call his Villa Park Office at (630) 903-6662 or visit www.SenatorTomCullerton.com.

Tom Cullerton works to give DuPage County parents tools to fight opioid epidemic

Opioid epidemicSPRINGFIELD - DuPage parents may soon have easily found educational information to prevent heroin and opioid addition, thanks to Villa Park Democrat State Senator Tom Cullerton.

Cullerton passed House Bill 3161 which will require the Department of Human Services to create and maintain a website to educate the public on heroin and prescription opioid abuse.

“We need to equip every single person who touches the life of a young person with the necessary resources to combat the heroin epidemic,” Cullerton said. “This is a simple step the state can take to make sure DuPage parents have a place to turn to help their children avoid or kick this deadly addiction.”

Tom Cullerton works to protect Illinoisans from GPS tracking

tc 052617SPRINGFIELD- As the federal government continues to allow big data to sell your information, State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) is working to protect Illinoisans from private entities sharing their location information that can be transmitted by cell phones, tablets and computers.

“Illinois residents deserve to know who has access to their personal information,” Cullerton said. “Geolocation tracking can tell companies where you buy your morning coffee or what bus stops your son or daughter jump on after school. This is private information. You should be able to control who has access to it.”

House Bill 3449 measure known as the Geolocation Privacy Protection Act, would require companies that store or share your precise location data to receive opt-in consent from Illinois residents before selling or sharing it. 

“Illinois residents may opt-in to use the GPS app on their phones or tablets but they should have a say on when their data is being sold,” Cullerton said. “It is simple. The price of using a map on your phone shouldn’t mean you are automatically giving some unknown entity the ability to sell your information.”

Cullerton believes it is a simple task for an app developer to ask consumers if they are privy to access their geolocation information. This is something that can be simply incorporated into the design and function of an application.

Currently Delaware, California and Nevada have similar laws in place.

House Bill 3449 passed the Senate on a 33-22 vote and now moves back to the House for further debate. 

Sen. Tom Cullerton


23rd Legislative District

Years served: 2013 - Present

Committee assignments: Appropriations II; Labor; Local Government (Vice-Chairperson); State Government & Veterans Affairs; Transportation; Committee of the Whole; Energy and Public Utilities.

Biography: Born Sept. 20, 1969; studied at the University of Kansas; former village president and trustee of Villa Park; married (wife Stacey), three sons.