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IL Safety Net Hospitals Want a Funding FIx

There are 40 safety-net hospitals serving low-income and uninsured residents in Illinois. (
There are 40 safety-net hospitals serving low-income and uninsured residents in Illinois. (
January 15, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Illinois lawmakers have been discussing funding for so-called safety-net hospitals: those that are required to provide medical services regardless of a patient’s ability to pay, and that often are the only facilities that will accept low-income patients.

The facilities are both publicly and privately owned. Funding runs out on June 30. State lawmakers are revisiting the funding formula for all hospitals this week, and a task force is trying to work out a plan.

State Sen. Emil Jones, a Democrat from Chicago, is on that panel and said safety-net hospitals are a crucial source of medical care for low-income, uninsured and vulnerable residents. He said he's concerned, because the state isn't looking at the most recent data collected on hospital admissions.

"Me and my colleagues have been urging the hospital association and the state - the Rauner administration - to use the current information,” Jones said. "There needs to be an increase in our regular hospital assessments, but definitely needs to be an increase in our safety-net hospitals."

The Illinois Health and Hospital Association says the state has 40 safety-net hospitals, representing about 19 percent of all hospitals in the state.

Jones said if the data were closely examined, the state would have more medical facilities considered to be safety-nets. The Chicago Democrat cites an example in his own district.

"In some cases, if IHA and the state were using current data, you would have a hospital like Metro South, which is located in Blue Island, they will be considered a safety-net hospital,” he said.

The Association of Safety Net Community Hospitals said they provide jobs to more than 25,000 people around Illinois, many in poorer communities where the hospitals are the primary employer.

Without a budget agreement by July 1, there could be layoffs or hospital closures. They're calling on lawmakers and the Rauner administration to reach an agreement on a renewed hospital assessment that includes a funding increase by the end of January.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IL