Health Care Overhaul Could Cost Cook County

July 16, 2009

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Photo by Andy Marfia

Cook County officials say part of the health care overhaul being debated in Washington could harm Stroger Hospital.
The federal government pays safety net hospitals billions to treat the uninsured. The hospital industry struck a deal with the White House last week to slash those payments in the future. It's a way to pay for insuring more people. That, in turn, means there would be less need to subsidize health care.

But Warren Batts, who chairs the board overseeing Cook County's health system, says it's not an even trade.

BATTS: Those who have insurance don't necessarily go to a safety net hospital.

He says based on what's happened elsewhere, hospitals like Stroger could still end up with a big share of people who can't pay.

BATTS: Those hospitals end up with inadequate funds to cover the cost of the patients who are showing up.

Cook County got about $85 million from the feds for treating the uninsured last year. The agreement would cut the reimbursements nationwide by 40 percent. Plans to revamp health care are being debated now in Congress.