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Suffredin made tough choice to save county health system

Monday, March 31, 2008
Crain's Chicago Business
by Quentin Young

Regardless of Greg Hinz's March 10 column "Standing small," we want to express admiration for the courageous role Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin played in resolving the grave crisis facing the county's Bureau of Health Services.

For the second year in a row, there was a huge cut in health services funding. The cuts greatly undermined the county's ability to meet its historic obligation to the sick and poor. To complicate this problem, widespread lack of confidence in the County Board leadership undermines public readiness to support health services with additional taxes.

Mr. Suffredin recognized that at a time of economic weakness and increasing numbers of uninsured people in the county, failure to fund health services adequately was not an option.

To meet the public need, Mr. Suffredin made additional funding conditional on serious reform: This meant nothing less than the establishment of an independent governing body for the Bureau of Health Services, ending the political domination of the personnel and contractual activities of the health system.

With his firm commitment to reform, Mr. Suffredin won additional funding to meet the immediate crisis. Securing support for an increase in county sales taxes was a difficult challenge. As he noted, only national health insurance will bring an end to this perennial budgetary crisis.

Under the circumstances, Mr. Suffredin fashioned a positive resolution to the immediate problem. For this, he deserves accolades.

Quentin Young, Chairman
Margie Schaps, Executive director
Health and Medicine Policy Research Group

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