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County hospital may charge $3 for prescriptions
Officials say it is needed to balance budget

Friday, August 31, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger wants county hospital patients to begin paying $3 for prescription drugs to help balance the county budget.
While Stroger himself would not say how much he pays for prescriptions under the county health insurance plan, most of the county's highest-paid employees pay only $5 for theirs.
"He's sticking it to the people who can least afford it," said Ed Shurna of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. "To make the county's poorest people pay almost as much as someone making six figures is completely unfair."
The county's highest-paid employees, like many public employees, have a generous health-care plan that includes a $3 co-pay for doctor visits.
Stroger would not say what his policy is on the amount employees pay for insurance.
But county officials say charging a fee for prescriptions is something long overdue, as most other public hospitals in the country assess some fee while Cook County's $1 billion public health system bleeds money because of a lack of adequate revenues.
Hospital Chief Operating Officer Tom Glaser said it's unclear what the county will realize in new revenues by charging $3 per prescription -- with a maximum of $10 per visit -- and emphasized that if patients can prove they can't afford it, they won't be denied care.
Still, the news was a jolt to Caron Alvarez, who spent six hours waiting to fill her husband's insulin prescription Thursday while he worked.
The Cicero woman sobbed as she realized she didn't have enough money for bus fare to get home, let alone an extra $3 for a prescription.
"We might not be able to afford it," she said. "He'll stop taking it and then we'll have to call an ambulance and send him to the emergency room. Then, it'll be a bigger bill."



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