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State Legislature can avert county health care crisis

Monday, July 16, 2007
Crain's Chicago Business
by Todd Stroger
Letter to the Editor

Last year, Cook County government faced the largest financial deficit in our history, forcing us to make hard choices to balance our budget, including in the Bureau of Health Services.
Cook County could and should have done more in the past to collect revenue. My administration is committed to improving that, through a better billing system, by requiring accountability and a higher standard of care and by creating an infrastructure that ensures that our medical facilities make the best possible use of limited resources.
The county requires $100 million in funding from Illinois' 2008 budget to keep our system operational and protect essential services for those most in need. That includes health care for hundreds of thousands of working people and their families who do not have access to health care.
What happens within our system impacts the entire state. Federal financing rules dictate that every dollar that stays in Cook County allows Illinois to invest in health care statewide, saving general funds and ensuring care for the needy. Illinois would lose more than $300 million in federal payments if Cook County's provision of services was curtailed.
Last year, Cook County provided more than 125,000 inpatient hospital days and $400 million in indigent care. Shifting this care to private providers would force the state to shoulder the costs of the Medicaid portion of these days. Hundreds of millions of dollars in hospital provider assessment monies are currently distributed to virtually every community throughout our state.
With the state Legislature scheduled to revisit — and potentially significantly revise — hospital provider assessments next year, a major failing with the county's system would place critical hospital assessment revenues at risk.
I urge the state Legislature to rise to the challenge and provide the funding Cook County needs to move our system closer to fiscal health and long-term sustainability.
Todd H. Stroger
Cook County Board president

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