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Woodford Times - Peoria, IL
  • Deadbeat Illinois: Springfield hospitals owed millions for worker insurance and Medicaid

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  • SPRINGFIELD — Springfield hospitals continue to feel the effects of late state payments for health care reimbursements.
    Both St. John's Hospital and Memorial Medical Center are owed millions of dollars by the state, both for Medicaid reimbursements and for providing services to state workers.
    "We're fortunate enough in that we have a healthy enough financial foundation that having longer payment cycles doesn't impact us like it would a smaller, not-for-profit company that has a smaller reserve," said Brian Reardon, spokesman for St. John's. "We're fortunate enough that we have enough days on hand cash that we can absorb these delays. But we recognize a lot of other, smaller providers or not-for-profits don't have that luxury."
    Still, the amount owed by the state is not a minor matter. As of Nov. 30, the state owed St. John's overall $48 million for health services rendered. Of that, $25.3 million was owed for more than 90 days.
    The amount was almost evenly split between Medicaid reimbursements and payments owed for state worker group health insurance. Reardon said St. John's was due $23.9 million for worker insurance and $23.8 million for Medicaid.
    In the case of Medicaid, he said, it takes the state about 270 days after care is given to reimburse the hospital.
    "For a while there, Medicaid was going pretty well," Reardon said. "We noticed the payment cycles were within reason. Within the last couple of months, we've seen delays again kicking in."
    Brad Hahn, spokesman for Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, said he isn't surprised by St. John's experience. Tax collections fluctuate throughout the year, which affects how quickly the state can pay bills. The last couple of months coincide with a slower period of state tax collections.
    Memorial Medical Center is owed about $60 million in health care payments, said spokesman Michael Leathers. That includes about $21.4 million in Medicaid payments and $38.6 million for state worker health care.
    "Whenever there are payment delays, it has an impact on our organization," he said. "We have to learn how to manage our expenses differently while still providing the same level of quality of care that our patients expect."
    Gov. Pat Quinn's budget office said the Medicaid situation is improving, even if it fluctuates throughout the year. A year ago at this time, there were $2.77 billion in Medicaid bills awaiting payment between the comptroller's office and the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, said budget spokesman Abdon Pallasch. This year, the number is down to $1.9 billion.
    "It is significantly improved on the Medicaid side," he said.
    That's not necessarily the case for employee health care expenses. For example, there are about $1.48 billion in outstanding bills for worker health insurance, according to the Department of Central Management Services. CMS spokesman Mike Claffey said the longest hold is 420 days for out of network claims under the Quality Care Health Plan.
    Page 2 of 2 - Claffey said the Legislature needs to allocate sufficient money into the worker health insurance budget to speed up payments.
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