Illinois hospitals need more state funding

To preserve access to care and protect the long-term viability of our Chicagoland hospitals, an increase in Medicaid/Medicare reimbursement is necessary, leaders of the Illinois Health and Hospital Association and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce write.

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A respiratory therapist works with a COVID-19 patient in the ICU at Rush University Medial Center on Jan. 31, 2022. Hospitals need an increase in Medicaid reimbursement to meet higher costs since the pandemic, two leaders write.

A respiratory therapist works with a COVID-19 patient in the ICU at Rush University Medial Center on Jan. 31, 2022. Hospitals need an increase in Medicaid reimbursement to meet higher costs since the pandemic, two leaders write.

Scott Olson/Getty

In the aftermath of a global pandemic, hospital leaders are encountering financial challenges and workforce pressures that threaten their ability to provide a full array of healthcare services. Hospitals are struggling to absorb labor and supply chain costs, which have increased upwards of 20%.

Those higher costs are now permanently embedded into the cost of providing care. Without additional state support to help offset those new costs, hospital leaders say the consequences will be impactful and affect delivery of care.

Because of these challenges, our government partners have advanced much-needed, temporary financial assistance for hospitals. While this funding provided significant interim relief, without systemic change, access to care will be diminished, health equity progress will be hampered, and economic growth in the region will be negatively affected.

In response, for the first time in nearly 30 years, the hospital community is seeking state funding support to increase the Medicaid reimbursement rate for hospitals.

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Government program reimbursement rates for Medicare and Medicaid, which provide health care coverage for well over half of all patients being cared for at Illinois hospitals, do not cover the full cost of providing care. It’s estimated that on average, the state Medicaid program reimburses hospitals at just 80% of what it costs hospitals to provide that care, and Illinois ranks 48th in Medicaid spending per enrollee among the 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Currently, Medicaid, the single largest insurer in Illinois, insures 3 in 10 Illinoisans, compared to 1 in 10 Illinoisans in 1995. Medicaid and Medicare account for two-thirds of hospital inpatient stays and over half of all hospital outpatient services. Illinois hospitals are caring for more Medicaid patients than ever before, yet the payments have not kept pace with rising costs.

To preserve access to care for all Illinois residents, particularly our most vulnerable populations and protect the long-term viability of our Chicagoland hospitals, the hospital community is seeking a state-funded increase to hospitals’ base reimbursement rates to bring needed fiscal stability and relief by helping to offset the increasing cost of care.

Hospitals and health care workers were there for us during the pandemic, and that effort has taken a toll. Hospitals need financial support to meet these unique challenges, to remain vibrant cornerstones of our communities and to continue to provide all Illinoisans with world-class health care.

A.J. Wilhelmi, president and CEO, Illinois Health and Hospital Association
Jack Lavin, president and CEO, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce

NEIU invests in faculty, students — and state must do the same

After months of negotiations and the looming possibility of a strike, the Northeastern Illinois University Board of Trustees approved a ratified agreement between the university and the faculty union.

But this model for what’s possible when we value people and prioritize diversity of voices and experiences is only viable if the state makes the same commitment to public universities.

Northeastern is the longest federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institution in the Midwest. We’re one of the top regional public universities in social mobility, demonstrating that when our students graduate, they move up the socioeconomic ladder. And we’re putting the pieces in place to overcome challenges that have come with declining enrollment and revenue.

A newly assembled Board of Trustees, half of whom are alums, is in place and centering its work with the understanding the university community must treat each other with respect, compassion and understanding to repair harmful separation and misunderstanding.

The ratified agreement with UPI Local 4100, the union that represents Northeastern’s faculty, advisers and librarians, means students can get the support they need without disruption, while faculty and staff can count on annual pay increases for the next four years and other resources and support laid out in the agreement.

Though the strong shifts in university leadership and investment in our faculty will ultimately benefit our students, it is only sustainable if the state does its part.

This is why we went to Springfield in support of additional funding, including passing the governor’s proposed 7% increase in higher education funding that supports a full faculty is in place and universities are resourced to nurture and guide students.

Students, faculty and staff reached out to share their thoughts about the importance of avoiding a strike and made it clear that Northeastern is a home and community to people who are invested in this entire region and understand that we need to get this right so that Northeastern can continue its impact beyond the perimeter of our campus.

I’m inspired by what I’ve seen and it signals to me the university is ready to move forward and continue to grow a learning space where community thrives. My only hope is that the state sees the same promise.

José Rico, chair, NEIU Board of Trustees

Lift the debt ceiling

Congress has a responsibility to pay the bills it runs up. For decades, this was not an issue. But now House GOP leaders are refusing to pay unless they get deep cuts to SNAP, Medicaid, housing assistance, and core global poverty programs. For them, people struggling to make ends meet are the problem, not reckless tax cuts for the rich Congress has enacted over the last 40 years.

House leaders are holding the economy hostage to punish Americans experiencing poverty. I strongly urge President Joe Biden and congressional leaders to reject any budget cuts that would increase poverty and to lift the debt ceiling immediately.

John Ballo, Elmhurst

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