Legislator: Stop blocking health care reform

By Christine Radogno

I applaud Comptroller Dan Hynes’ recent endorsement of a much-needed fiscal reform that would close a little-known loophole in Illinois law known as “Section 25.” At this time, state officials can use this loophole to delay Medicaid payments until the next fiscal year, giving the illusion that the state’s budget is balanced when it is not.

Most recently, Governor Rod Blagojevich used this provision in order to expand his universal health care proposal without legislative approval; however, Section 25 payments have been delayed by many governors as a way to free up revenue and delay expenditures.

This year, I was proud to sponsor legislation, Senate Bill 1533, that would phase out the state’s Section 25 liabilities – which are now estimated at $2.4 billion – over the next 10 years. This would not only reduce the state’s massive backlog of unpaid health care bills, but it would also ensure more prompt payments to the state’s Medicaid providers.

Unfortunately, Senate President Emil Jones and Senate Rules Committee Chairman Debbie Halvorson have not allowed consideration of the legislation. As a result, Senate Bill 1533 continues to languish in the Senate Rules Committee, unheard and unapproved by legislators.

As Comptroller Hynes’ support indicates, this is not a partisan issue but an important measure that continues to be blocked for consideration. I am hopeful that Comptroller Hynes’ backing will encourage Democrat leaders to allow this legislation, as well as other major fiscal and ethics reform bills, to be debated and voted on in the Illinois Senate.