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Stroger says county health officials aren't doing enough

Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Daily Southtown
by Jonathan Lipman

In a rare rebuke, Cook County Board President John Stroger said Tuesday that county health officials aren't doing enough to improve patient billing procedures at county hospitals and clinics.

"We cannot continue to make excuses," Stroger told Daniel Winship, chief of county health services, at Tuesday's board meeting. "If you've got people over there who can't do the work, write them up. ... Get people who can do the work."

Stroger's comments followed questions by some county commissioners over several proposed hospital contracts to aid in obtaining collections.

"We should be able to link up all these systems we have and not have to spend this money (on contractors), do this in-house," Commissioner Earlean Collins (D-Chicago) said.

Other commissioners, especially Bobbie Steele (D-Chicago), have focused on the county's problems with collecting payments as a serious hole in its finances.

Steele said she cannot support any proposed tax increase in the 2006 budget until the collections process is improved. The county faces a $250 million budget deficit.

One of the proposed contracts Tuesday was for billing software, and Winship said the software is not to blame.

"The problem is with the system and people problems ... our employees," Winship said. "What's entered and the way it's entered are very important."

Stroger directed Winship to meet with Catherine O'Leary, the county's information technology director, to work on solutions.

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