Illinois has unveiled a plan to make healthcare delivery in the state more equitable.
The proposal from the Illinois Department of Healthcare & Family Services comes six months after lawmakers approved revisions to the state’s hospital assessment program but declined to allocate a pool of $150 million to help facilities across the state transform in an evolving industry. The decision to hold the funds was partly due to some elected officials expressing concern about the now-dead merger of four South Side hospitals, which had banked on a significant portion of the pot.
The funds are part of Illinois' $3.5 billion hospital assessment program, in which more than 200 hospitals pay into the pot, triggering additional contributions from the federal government.
Now, HFS, the largest payer for health care in the state, wants to allocate $150 million a year of that money—as well as other public and private investments—to sustainable projects that aim to improve patient outcomes and reduce health disparities. Its 54-page health care transformation proposal outlines project goals and criteria, such as emphasizing preventive care and preventing any reduction in access to services or jobs. (Read the plan below.)
“It’s time we looked beyond the four walls of a hospital or doctor’s office and reorient the entire system around people and communities, HFS Director Theresa Eagleson said in a statement today. “We need to reimagine care delivery and focus on what it takes to truly improve health and wellness for the most vulnerable Illinois residents.”
The state’s plan, which it created with the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Public Health, will require buy-in from lawmakers. Before the funds can be allocated, a bill must be drafted and passed. And with fall veto session canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s unlikely there will be any significant movement until January.
“It is important that the Department of Healthcare & Family Services is looking at health outcomes and health disparities in its vision for health care transformation,” state Rep. Camille Y. Lilly, D-Chicago, said in a statement today from HFS. “I look forward to working with a final plan which addresses healthier communities and the quality of life for the citizens of Illinois.”
Lilly is among lawmakers who earlier this year expressed concern about using such a large portion of the state’s annual hospital transformation fund on the previously planned four-hospital merger, which included two facilities owned by large health systems.
“We are proud of the framework our research and initial planning brings to the conversations about healthcare transformation in Illinois and we look forward to working with legislators in the general assembly to improve and finalize these ideas with their input and feedback,” Eagleson said.