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Counties' cooperation a good example

Monday, October 01, 2007
Daily Herald

We spend a lot of time criticizing politicians who won't sit down and work out compromises or, at the very least, listen to each other. This year's stalemate with the governor and legislative leaders is a strong case in point of what happens when politicians dig in and won't work together on solutions.
So we're delighted by the positive nature of a meeting recently held -- and reported on today by staff writer Rob Olmstead -- between leaders of Cook County and the collar counties.
Cook County is looking to get the collar counties to help pay for indigent collar county residents who use Cook County health services. Cook County officials say poor collar county residents accounted for nearly $20 million in patient charges at Stroger Hospital between January 2005 and June 2006.
So they asked collar county leaders to come meet with them. That wasn't met initially with much enthusiasm.
"The counterpoint to that is McHenry County is subsidizing CTA," said McHenry County Chairman Ken Koehler. "There is no sympathy from this county board president."
But that view seems to have changed after Friday's meeting and we're glad to see that there is still room for compromise in local political circles.
"I went there skeptical," said Lake County Department of Health chief Dale Galassie. "It was very worthwhile. It was eye-opening and the public perception of what is taking place in Cook is different than what the reality is."
What is different, they say, is that Cook County is serious about cleaning up its financial and administrative messes.
"They are absolutely administratively making significant strides," Galassie said. "They irony is they're not doing anything on the P.R. (public relations) side."
Even Koehler was looking at things differently following the meeting with Cook officials.
"There's a serious issue here," he said.
We think it makes sense and is only fair for Cook County to work with the collars to get some help in dealing with 1,550 patients (as counted in the same 18-month study from January 2005 to June 2006) who use its services from the collar counties. The care these people get at Stroger is often cheaper than what they can find elsewhere. Or, in many cases, they can't find the services they need elsewhere.
And it is a positive sign that the counties, despite perceptions and differing political views, are willing to work together to solve the issue. We hope the state political leaders are watching and learning.

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