Tucked inside a bill meant to cut the costs of Illinois' Medicaid program is a tax break to the state's for-profit hospitals that will cost at least $10 million a year, the Associated Press reported.
The legislation, which was signed into law in June by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, was part of a package of $2.7 billion in budget cuts and tax increases to help keep the Medicaid program functioning, according to the article. The legislation's language was extraordinarily dense and often bordered on the incoherent.
The tax break given to the hospitals was blasted as inexcusable by the Center for Tax and Accountability, a non-partisan group.
"That's saying we'd rather spend that $10 million to subsidize the income of these mostly affluent investors than use that $10 million to pay for the core services we directly fund," Ralph Martire, the center's executive director, told the wire service.
Overall, the tax break will benefit 28 for-profit hospitals in Illinois, according to the AP. The biggest beneficiary is Vanguard Health Systems, which will receive a break equivalent to $5.5 million a year.
Officials with the Illinois Hospital Association said the tax break would encourage charitable care.
"It's good public policy to support the charitable activities of investor-owned hospitals. We want to encourage hospitals to continue to provide free and discounted care," the hospital lobby's A.J. Wilhelmi told the Associated Press about the tax break. Wilhelmi served seven years in the Illinois Senate before resigning last February to join the IHA, and was listed as one the bill's legislative sponsors.