Memorial Health System finished its fiscal year in September being owed about $30.4 million by the state in Medicaid payments, while the federal government owed it $40.4 million for Medicare, according to Memorial’s annual report released on Tuesday.

Memorial Health System finished its fiscal year in September being owed about $30.4 million by the state in Medicaid payments, while the federal government owed it $40.4 million for Medicare, according to Memorial’s annual report released on Tuesday.


The totals included all of the Memorial system’s hospitals, including Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, Taylorville Memorial Hospital and Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital in Lincoln.


Medicaid is a program jointly funded by the state and federal governments that provides a variety of health-care services, while Medicare is federal health insurance for people over 65 years of age and for certain younger people with disabilities.


A check with St. John’s Hospital found that it alone is owed $33.2 million in unpaid Medicaid bills by the state, $500,000 of which are more than a year old. The federal government is current on its Medicare payments within the last 30 days, according to a spokesman.


Although the total unpaid Medicaid bills for Memorial are not significantly more than in 2010, hospitals statewide are beginning to worry about the potential burden state government will place on Medicaid providers to shoulder Illinois’ budget troubles.


State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka’s office has amassed $715.7 million in unpaid Medicaid bills, according to Bradley Hahn, a Topinka spokesman, while an estimated $2.2 billion has not yet been sent over from state departments.


The Chicago Civic Federation warned two weeks ago that the state’s backlog of Medicaid bills would hit $21 billion in five years if nothing is changed about the program. Gov. Pat Quinn and legislative leaders have said doing so is a priority in the upcoming legislative session.


Michael Leathers, a spokesman for Memorial, said Tuesday he couldn’t comment on the impact of the unpaid Medicaid bills or why the hospital system had such a large number of outstanding Medicare bills at the end of its fiscal year.


St. John’s spokesman Tim Butler said the money owed by the state has not been a problem until the hospital’s 2011 fiscal year because the federal stimulus program enacted in 2009 required timely Medicaid payments to providers.


“I would say it hasn’t necessarily made an impact on the operations of the hospitals yet, but as we move forward and these bills remain unpaid … these certainly could have an impact on anything as we go forward,” Butler said. “It really came to light in fiscal year 2011 and continues into 2012.”


Butler said the hospital has talked with local legislators about the problem but doesn’t necessarily favor cuts in Medicaid. Illinois already has one of the lowest reimbursement rates to hospitals and other health-care providers for services in the nation.


Quinn proposed to reduce those reimbursement rates by 6 percent. Providers indicated they would rather be paid late, which meant $1.5 billion of Medicaid bills transferred into the next budget year.


 “We’re concerned with further reductions in Medicaid and further reductions in Medicare at the federal level as well,” Butler said. “There’s a lot of pressures in the health-care system as well. Further cuts could impact the services that we offer.”


 


Chris Wetterich can be reached at 788-1523.


 


Memorial Health System’s unpaid Medicaid and Medicare bills


 


Fiscal year*, Medicaid, Medicare


2011, $30.4 million, $40.4 million


2010, $30.3 million, $30.5 million


2009, $26.4 million, $25.2 million


 


*The hospital’s fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.


Source: Memorial’s annual reports