The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law is in federal court Thursday to try and force the Illinois state government to pay the Medicaid payments it owes. It's the latest issue to wind up before a judge as part of the budget impasse that's playing out at the Illinois statehouse.
Some hospitals serving low-income communities are in imminent danger of closing, according to Shriver Center’s court filing. The filing further states that If those hospitals close because of the state's failure to pay bills, it would violate a decade-old court order. The Shriver lawyers argued that order requires the state to complete Medicaid payments to hospitals in Cook County, even though Gov. Bruce Rauner and lawmakers have not approved a spending plan authorizing the state to reimburse those hospitals.
The court filing specifically named The New Roseland Community Hospital. It said delayed payments “will force Roseland Community Hospital, in less than a week, to begin the process of closing its hospital.” Roseland Community Hospital is dependent on the Medicaid program for 71 percent of its funding and it anticipates a $2 million shortfall in July and a $2.4 million shortfall in August, according to the Shriver Center’s filing.
Roseland Hospital said in a written statement that it has enough funding to make payroll on July 31st and it will be implementing a voluntary furlough, layoffs and service line suspensions before August 1.
“The families of those who are going to die because of this political budget impasse will not give a damn about party lines,” said Tim Egan, New Roseland President and CEO, in an emailed statement. “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.”
The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services is a named defendant in the lawsuit. John Hoffman, a spokesperson for the department, said in response to the filing, “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.”
Eight other hospitals that depend heavily on Medicaid payments are receiving limited leftover funds from fiscal year 2015, so they can continue operating for now. But the Shriver Center’s filing argues that those payments only delay the day of reckoning for those hospitals until August.
Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her @shannon_h. WBEZ’s state politics reporter Tony Arnold also contributed to this report.