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Federal judge orders $9 billion in Illinois Medicaid bills be put in front of line





A federal judge has ordered the state of Illinois to move about $9 billion in past due Medicaid bills to the front of its spending pecking order. 

U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow late Friday ordered that the state pay $586 million per month to the its Medicaid system starting Saturday. On top of that, Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza must pay $2 billion in backlogged bills over the next 12 months. Totaling roughly $753 million per month if the payments were dispersed evenly throughout fiscal year 2018, half of the payments will be matched by the federal government. Once matched, the final bill for Illinois will be about $4.5 billion. 

Mendoza said in a statement Friday that the ruling changed Illinois' finances from horrific to catastrophic. She said payments to the pension funds, state payroll including legislator pay, state aid to schools and local governments will likely all have to be cut. This is because Lefkow's ruling is a federal court order and supersedes the state consent decrees that have been forcing state spending despite a lack of a state budget.

"A comprehensive budget plan must be passed immediately," Mendoza said. 

"We were very gratified that the judge is essentially going to save our health-care system from financial ruin," said attorney David Chizewer, who represented the health care providers in the case. "We're not trying to compete with other people but, unfortunately, that's the situation the state is in right now."

The judge ruled that Mendoza prioritize payments to be made to "safety net hospitals" in order to better comply with the ruling. The state must report to the court on a monthly basis that the payments are being made. 

Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office was not available to comment on the ruling. Her office could appeal the ruling. Gov. Bruce Rauner's office would not comment.

Lawmakers return to the Captol today to consider at least $5 billion in tax increases to pay for what could be the most expensive budget in the state's history. Democrat House Speaker has proposed a $36.5 billion budget. A vote on a budget amendment Friday received some Republican support.

More at ILNews.org


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