SPRINGFIELD — License fees paid by doctors would rise to $750 over a three-year period under legislation that cleared an Illinois House committee Wednesday.
Each physician now pays $300 every three years to cover the licensing and disciplining of medical doctors in the state.
The fee increase is needed because of a shortfall in the state's medical disciplinary fund.
The Illinois State Medical Society opposed the license fee increase because it contends the shortfall was caused when former Gov. Rod Blagojevich swept more than $8 million from the fund to support the general revenue fund.
"Our point is that were these funds not swept, there would be sufficient monies in the fund and you wouldn't have the crisis that you have today. Paying the money back through increased licensure fees really amounts to nothing more than a tax on physicians," said James Tierney, vice president of the medical society.
The medical society proposed that the general revenue fund transfer money back to the medical disciplinary fund to pay for its operation.
Tierney said the medical society is concerned that the legislation that cleared the committee Wednesday (SB 622) "will lead to huge surpluses in the fund that will make it rife for another sweep."
By 2019, Tierney said, there would be as much as $7 million in the fund.
"That to us is an excessive balance. There's no need to hold that kind of balance in this particular fund," he said.
But the majority Democrats on the committee backed the $750 fund.
"We have a clear responsibility to see to it that we can go after the bad actors, the bad apples, and to see to it that doctors who meet the credentialing requirements are able to get a license and do their job," said House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago.
The bill now goes to the full House and, if passed, will have to return to the Senate for concurrence with a House amendment.