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End Cook County charity care.

Sunday, March 25, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
Editorial

Something doesn't add up.

According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau report, Cook County posted the third biggest population decline in the nation, losing about 88,000 residents since 2000.

This decline means there are fewer taxpayers to bear the burden of the county's mandate to provide services, a large expenditure going to provide medical care for the indigent and for underinsured and uninsured county residents.

During this same period, the collar counties added residents. For instance, Kendall gained nearly 34,000 residents, while Will County also saw double-digit growth.

But Cook County's loss is not necessarily someone else's gain -- at least when it comes to responsibility for health care to the poor. Patients outside of Cook County still are getting access to its public health clinics and hospitals at the expense of taxpayers -- Cook County taxpayers, that is.

Now that the Cook County Board is looking under every rock in an effort to close its budget gap, commissioners are threatening to close these facilities to non-Cook County residents unless their home county agrees to help cover the costs for their care.

Between the Stroger Hospital's sloppy billing practices and this unreimbursed expense, it is little wonder Cook County is in the red. If the home counties aren't willing to help, Cook County has no choice but to withdraw its charity care for residents of the collar counties.


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