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Obamacare money boost helps Cook County hospitals budget next year

Saturday, August 16, 2014
Chicago Tribune
by Hal Dardick,

A key Cook County panel on Friday endorsed a plan to increase public health care spending to $1.54 billion, but the amount local taxpayers will be asked to contribute is expected to decrease under the plan as federal funding fills the gap.

Next yearís Health and Hospitals System budget would rise by 9 percent from the $1.41 billion the county now expects to spend by the end of the current fiscal year, administrators told members of the health system boardís Finance Committee.

By Nov. 30, the county will have spent about $300 million more than it had projected in the current budget because more people signed up for the managed care program than anticipated. But higher federal reimbursements are expected to cover those costs.

There are nearly 100,000 people now enrolled in the managed care program, about 40,000 more people than expected. By the end of November 2015, that number is projected to top 150,000, in part because many families, seniors and disabled people who already were on Medicaid before Obamacare are being moved into the program.

About $164 million in funding next year would come out of county taxpayer coffers, a decrease from about $175 million this year. Thatís also down from $481 million in 2009. Federal funding for the managed care program would reach $915 million, with the rest of the money coming from other federal programs and patient payments.Due to increased federal funding and other cost reductions in the proposed Health System budget, the projected overall county budget gap for next year has been reduced by $61 million to $108 million, county official said. County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is expected to present her 2015 budget proposal in early October.

The health care spending plan now moves to the systemís full board before it can be incorporated into the overall county government budget.

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