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On the Mend-Cook County’s Health System is in Recovery

On the mend: Cook County's health system is in recovery
Originally published in the October 25, 2012 edition of ChicagoTribune.com. Image courtesy of the Chicago Tribune:

One of the highlights of the budget presentation Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle made last week to the Tribune editorial board was an impressively streamlined $868 million spending plan for the health system. In this case, what wedidn’t hear from Preckwinkle and health system CEO Dr. Ram Raju was even more impressive.

What we didn’t hear were excuses for why the health care budget would gobble an ever greater share of taxpayer dollars. Instead, the taxpayer subsidy for the hospital system in this year’s proposed $2.95 billion county budget is $254 million, the same as last year. The subsidy is down 35 percent from 2010.

Nor did we hear excuse after excuse for why doctors couldn’t bill patients, or why computer systems weren’t talking to each other, leading to massive inefficiency and a bleeding bottom line that year after year tips the entire county budget into the red.

What we did hear is extremely encouraging: The health system’s revenue shortfall will be vastly diminished — from $169 million last year to about $60 million by the end of this fiscal year. And 2013 should be even better, if the federal government comes through as expected — as it should — with a waiver allowing the county to gain reimbursement for Medicaid patients already being treated in the system. That would be a $197 million booster shot for the system…

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