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Another Take

Friday, November 02, 2007
Daily Southtown
by Jerry Butler

I am writing in response to Phil Kadner's column on Oct. 19. Dr. Quentin
Young and William McNary are two gentlemen I have great respect and
admiration for; however, their view of the situation in the Cook County
Bureau of Health needs some rebuttal.

Young opines that the county has hired a collection agency to "terrorize
people living in poverty" who have been unable to pay their hospital bills.

The mission of the Stroger Hospital has not changed - we still serve people
regardless of their ability to pay.

However, we have hired collection agencies to assist us in keeping folks who
can pay from cheating the taxpayers of Cook County. As a matter of fact, we
recently have been made aware that a great number of patients from outside
of Cook County, e.g., from Will, DuPage and Lake counties, are adding to
Cook County's burden, as are undocumented immigrants.

Cook County's health care system serves about 1 million people annually, and
the reasons we are facing a financial crisis are multifaceted, not the least
of which are political pundits running for office on the back of the Bureau
of Health.

As to the assertion Cook County needs a board of trustees to oversee the
system, there once was such a group, and as Young knows, and it failed.

In the draft report of the review committee, these recommendations were
included: (An oversight committee should be formed, working) in partnership
with county leaders. These organizations are proposed as members by Citizens
Action, McNary's group: The Institute of Medicine, The Illinois Public
Health Association, The Metropolitan Healthcare Council, The Health and
Medicine Policy Research group, the Chicago Department of Health, Cook
County Physicians Association and The Federation of Labor. Notice there are
no ordinary citizens or nursing unions included.

Recommendation No. 5 states: "Revenue cycle improvement must be a high
priority. In the opinion of the review committee, this will most quickly and
efficiently be accomplished by outsourcing to a strong national company.
This action will require a significant investment and will likely take two
years to fully realize the benefit of the changes."

Delays in this investment only will delay full realization of this necessary
revenue source. The draft report goes on to say, "In the eyes of the review
committee the estimated revenue and expenses reduction opportunities are
insufficient to close the estimated financial gaps."

This committee was organized, as Kadner states in his column, in part
because Sen. Dick Durbin informed President Todd Stroger federal health care
funds would not be distributed to Cook County until it proved it had taken
steps to reform a system that had been a patronage haven. I must assume that
is Kadner's opinion, as opposed to what Durbin said because there are no
quotation marks used.

The federal government is part of Cook County's financial problem, having
cut back hundreds of millions of dollars in intergovernmental transfers
earmarked for Cook County. I wish our senator had given his attention to
that problem rather than the few patronage jobs he allegedly points to in
your article.

I notice with interest there were no quotes from or mention of Dr. Robert
Simon, who has been charged with running the system. I believe fair
reporting would have afforded him a chance to respond to Young's critique.

Finally, it is difficult to bring a logical conclusion to a political
argument that is steeped in half-truths and campaign rhetoric. I hope that
whatever the outcome, good governance, not politics, will prevail. It has
not happened in my years on this board, and I am skeptical that a board
constituted as prescribed by Citizen Action will do any better than the
current board. Politics is the problem, and apparently, it is not limited to

Jerry Butler is a member of the Cook County board of commissioners.

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