As the state budget stalemate continues, the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty is fighting to keep Medicaid payments flowing to Cook County hospitals, some of which could soon be forced to shut down due to funding delays.
The group has brought the issue to federal court, saying that under a consent decree, the state has to continue providing Medicaid payments to Cook County hospitals during the budget standoff.
The New Roseland Community Hospital, which has a budget that relies heavily on Medicaid, is one hospital cited by the Shriver Center in a court document that will start shutting down "in less than a week" as a result of delayed Medicaid payments.
"The families of those who are going to die because of this political budget impasse will not give a damn about party lines," New Roseland Community Hospital's President and CEO Tim Egan told WBEZ. "Just as bullets don't recognize political boundaries, grieving families, critically injured patients and an abandoned community will not care about Republicans or Democrats. They will just know that the State of Illinois failed them. And the State of Illinois will have failed the New Roseland Hospital, its patients and its employees over a political stalemate."
Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services spokesman John Hoffman issued these remarks to the WBEZ: "While we believe this motion incorrectly interprets the consent decree, this does highlight the importance of the General Assembly passing a balanced budget so our most vulnerable citizens will know they can continue receiving the care they need in the long run."
UPDATE (5:20 p.m.): A federal judge ruled Thursday that the state has to continue making Medicaid payments to hospitals and other medical facilities for services provided to Cook County Medicaid recipients, even though the state has no budget in place. The Shriver Center notes that there are 700,000 children in Cook County enrolled in Medicaid.
"The court's order today averts a disastrous loss of access to care that the children would have suffered," Shriver Center President John Bouman said in a statement. "As the budget impasse continues, increasing numbers of Medicaid-funded providers would have been affected by DHFS's decision not to pay them. Now poor children and other Medicaid beneficiaries will be able to get the healthcare they need, even as Illinois officials continue to fail to arrive at a state budget."