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Illinois’ stack of unpaid medical bills now reaches $3.5 billion

Crain’s Chicago Business reports:

“The state budget stalemate, which has stretched on for nearly two years, is putting lives on the line, according to emotional testimony out of the Illinois House yesterday.

That’s because the state’s now $12.6 billion backlog also includes months and months of unpaid medical bills on behalf of state workers and retirees. At last count, the state owed $3.5 billion in medical bills for its employees, according to a spokesman for the Illinois comptroller. In early March, a dental lobbying group said dentists who treat state employees were owed a collective $174 million.

As the House appropriations committee heard yesterday, Kobe Williams, a 15-month-old who needs an oxygen tank to breathe, is in danger of losing the equipment that keeps him alive. His mother, a state worker, pays his expenses under the state medical plan, which is losing coverage as it fails to pay providers.

Kenea Williams, Kobe’s mother, testified that the company that provides Kobe’s oxygen tank stopped accepting the state insurance because of nonpayment. Williams said two Marion County Sheriff’s Department officers knocked on her door, seeking to retrieve the equipment, but agreed to leave the tank until she could find coverage from another provider.
It turns out the alternate provider is 50 miles away—and it’s likely only a matter of time before it, too, cuts off Williams’ insurance.

“Eventually, with them losing payment we will lose them also, and I’m out of options,” Williams said.

Williams, who continues to have health care premiums deducted from every paycheck, said she wants lawmakers to know the consequences of their inertia.

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