Wednesday, Dec. 22


Gov. Blagojevich announces $430 million infusion of funds to strengthen Illinois hospitals     Send a link to a friend

Public Aid and Illinois Hospital Association team up,
win federal OK for Hospital Assessment Plan

[DEC. 22, 2004]  CHICAGO -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced Tuesday that Medicaid officials have approved the state's Hospital Assessment Plan, which will leverage $430 million in federal funds to strengthen Illinois' health care system.

The plan, which required approval the Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, had strong backing in Washington, D.C., from the Illinois Hospital Association, many individual hospitals and the entire Illinois congressional delegation. Gov. Blagojevich personally traveled to Washington to lobby Tommy Thompson to approve funding for Illinois' provider assessment program.

"This is a great day for Illinois hospitals, particularly those hospitals that have been taking on a growing share of the Medicaid caseload and delivering care for the uninsured," the governor said. "I want to thank U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson and our own House Speaker Dennis Hastert [R-Yorkville] for their leadership on this. Together we are expanding eligibility for health care for children and working families, and we are taking concrete steps to boost the financial health of our hospitals. At the same time, we will also target some of these new funds to our nursing homes and services for people with developmental disabilities."

The state legislation creating the Hospital Assessment Plan was sponsored by state Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, D-Evanston. "Today is a major victory for everyone who needs health care services in Illinois," Schoenberg said. "This initiative is just one step toward ensuring hospitals and other health care providers will continue to deliver accessible, affordable and quality services to Illinois residents. I applaud Governor Blagojevich and Director Maram for refusing to turn their backs on millions of Illinois residents who need the security of knowing their health care needs will be met."

"With this infusion of funds, our hospitals will be able to continue providing high-quality care, including high-cost, lifesaving services such as trauma care, neonatal care and care for burn victims," said Kenneth C. Robbins, president of the Illinois Hospital Association. "These funds will also help hospitals keep up with advances in medical technology, recruit and retain qualified nurses and doctors, and improve patient safety."

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The goal of the program is to target additional funds to help hospitals cover the cost of growing Medicaid caseloads. Illinois is one of 17 states across the country with provider-assessment programs. Under the plan, Illinois will receive an additional $430 million in federal funds for the state's health care system.

"A lot of people said this couldn't be done. We knew all along it would be a heavy lift, but we were persistent and worked with CMS [Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] until we arrived at a plan that worked for everyone to strengthen the Illinois health care system," said Illinois Department of Public Aid Director Barry Maram. "Thanks to the leadership of the governor, the administration forged a broad-based coalition, led by Speaker Hastert, that worked together very effectively in support of this plan in Washington. This is a very gratifying achievement, coming as it does at a time when the state and all of our health care partners are facing tremendous financial pressures. Strengthening the financial health of our hospitals will enable us to continue providing quality health care for our most vulnerable citizens."

Sister Sheila Lyne, president and chief executive officer of Mercy Hospital Medical Center, an inner-city hospital that cares for many of Chicago's neediest citizens, applauds the efforts of the administration. "Governor Blagojevich and Director Maram deserve high praise for securing these much-needed dollars for Illinois hospitals so we can continue to provide high-quality health care to our vulnerable patients," she said.

In a series of studies by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, Illinois has been singled out as a national leader in delivering health care for the uninsured during the Blagojevich administration.

The Blagojevich administration has increased health care funding in Illinois by more than $1 billion, despite facing a two-year budget deficit of $7.5 billion.

[Illinois Department of Public Aid news release]

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