Illinois Governor Rolled Over Medicaid Bills To Hide Problems With Budget
Theadministration of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) has hidden state budgetproblems by rolling over about $1.5 billion in Medicaid claims each year,according to a new state audit, the Chicago Tribune reports. The audit, by stateAuditor General William Holland, was requested by state Sen. Dale Richter (R).According to the Tribune, the audit found that Blagojevich's staffhad rolled over about $1.5 billion in outstanding Medicaid provider paymentsannually, "a budgeting trick" that some governors use "toartificially boost the size of their states' checkbooks."
The audit also found that the IllinoisDepartment of Healthcare and Family Services took an average of 77 days to reimbursephysicians and pharmacists who care for low-income or aging patients but arenot associated with large hospitals. Barry Maram, director of the health caredepartment, said the delayed payments were a result of the lower health carefinances, after lawmakers last year cut $250 million from Blagojevich'sproposed health care budget. Maram added that the department has reduced itsMedicaid deficit from $2.2 billion in 2003.
State Comptroller Dan Hynes and several lawmakers are using the audit tocriticize Blagojevich's attempt to implement a proposal to expand FamilyCare, the state's subsidized health care program.Hynes said, "This is appalling and inexcusable," adding, "Healthcare providers have been forced out of business as a result of the ongoingmismanagement of this program."
Richter dismissed Maram's claims and noted that the Medicaid budget deficit in2003, before Blagojevich took office, was less than $1 billion. Richter said,"The real problem here is the administration's unwillingness to recognizethat there are deep-seated problems in this program" (Long/Meitrodt, ChicagoTribune, 5/13).
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