- Four Chicago hospitals were on track to create a new health system designed to expand access to care to reduce health inequities on the city's South Side, but the effort was derailed after state funding plans changed. The hospitals planned on receiving $520 million over five years from the state to offset any losses as they stood up the new system.
- The hospitals are blaming an "eleventh-hour shift in the legislation" that they say forces them to abandon plans to form the new system, according to a letter sent to the director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. They contend a broad health bill as approved did not provide the requested funding.
- The quartet warned that the move by the legislators would only continue to perpetuate health disparities among the African American community, also laid bare by the novel coronavirus claiming more African American lives in Chicago than whites.
The four hospitals — Advocate Trinity Hospital, Mercy Hospital and Medical Center (a member of Trinity Health), South Shore Hospital and St. Bernard Hospital — had ambitious plans for the underserved area of the city, in which nearly 60% of residents leave the area for care, leaders have claimed.
The group had planned to invest at least $1.1 billion to erect a new hospital and community health centers, targeted at reducing the health disparities. Average life expectancy is 30 years shorter for residents on the South Side compared to other parts of the city.
But forming a new health system would create financial challenges of its own, which is why the four hospitals were leaning on the state to help with funding.
The system "moved closer to reality in recent weeks, as the agreements for the complex legal transaction as well as the financial and operational models — have been refined and finalized," the letter to the Illinois health official said.
The system even held virtual town hall meetings, convening more than 700 community leaders and residents across 11 ZIP codes to assess their needs and wants from the new provider.
But leaders blamed the failed plans due to changes in legislation that they expected to help fund the effort. The bill was approved by both the state Senate and House on Friday.
"You can imagine our profound disappointment that our project is not identified in the final form of the legislation and that, in fact, HFS cannot allocate funds associated with the hospital and health care transformation pool without further action," according to the letter.
The group hopes that its business plan will serve as a resource for the state should a similar plan be developed in the future.