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Stroger urges new Medicaid agreement between state and county

Friday, January 26, 2007
Chicago Defender
by Mema Ayi

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger hopes to work with Gov. Rod Blagojevich to re-examine a 2002 agreement that allows the state to keep 65 percent of Medicaid funds, Stroger's office said Thursday.
Stroger spokesman Steve Mayberry told the Defender that the county will ask Blagojevich to release at least a portion of the $375 million it received in federal Medicaid funding last year.
The Benefits Improvement Act of 2002 outlined the administration of the funds from the state to the Cook County hospital system. The agreement brokered between the state and the county allowed the state to distribute just 35 percent of the $375 million to Cook County.
Last year, the state kept about $244 million, Mayberry said.
Blagojevich's office did not return Defender calls seeking comment Thursday.
But Wednesday, State Senator and Rev. James Meeks (D-15th) said he will look into getting more of the funding to Cook County.
The county is counting on Meeks and the governor to develop a new agreement to release more money to the county's hospital system. If the Blagojevich cannot change the agreement by Stroger's Feb. 28 deadline to get a budget passed, the governor could grant the county emergency funds, Mayberry said.
"It is within the governor's right to rework that agreement. The bottom line is we need funding," Mayberry said.
Wednesday, Stroger stood with Rev. Jesse Jackson at a news conference urging the state to consider altering the agreement help the county with its $500 million budget deficit.
Jackson urged all interested parties to come together to find a resolution, but urged the state to release the funds to help the county board through its budget crisis. Last week, Stroger proposed a $3 billion budget that included drastic cuts across all county departments, which will lead to layoffs and the end of many programs and services.
"At this moment, that's the way to go," Mayberry said.


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