Illinois' financial status is sickening — — and it could be a threat to your personal health.
The state's budget woes are hitting home in a variety of ways, one of which could come between patients and their doctors. In fact, it could result in some patients not having a doctor.
The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation recently announced that it will take between 12 and 18 months to process license applications for new physicians or those moving to this state.
Why? Because state funds, specially allocated for the licensing process and obtained through licensing fees, have been diverted to other state spending.
Carle Foundation Hospital Chief Executive Officer Jim Leonard calls the licensing delay a "disaster in the making."
House Speaker Michael Madigan has drafted legislation to address the problem, but there is no indication if or how long it will take to be passed into law. The legislation would transfer $6.6 million in state funds "as soon as possible" to the department as well as increase fees professionals must pay for a state license.
The goal is to provide the financing that will allow the department's acting chief, Manuel Flores, to reinstate 18 of the 26 employees who oversee licensing and put the process back on track.
Part of this dispute stems from a political power struggle between Flores and the Illinois State Medical Society over proposed license fee hikes. But the impetus is that money collected specifically to finance the licensing process was "swept" from its special account into the state's general operating budget.
Leonard said he has already heard stories of doctors who planned to move to Illinois going elsewhere because of the licensing delay. He said that's to be expected "if you can't get a license and you need a paycheck."
Is borrowing from Peter to pay Paul any way for a responsible state to operate? Of course not. But in Illinois, it's been done repeatedly. Just another day at the office.