With Illinois lawmakers struggling to agree on a state budget, the state Senate unanimously passed a contingency plan to get some money for dentists.
Illinois is literally two years behind in paying health insurance bills for state employees, which affects doctors, hospitals and other health care providers.
Dentists may soon find relief, though. Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, is sponsoring legislation that would allow private lenders to effectively buy the debt. The dentists would get paid, and the state would owe the lenders, plus interest.
“They would basically give pennies on the dollar, often 90 cents or more on the dollar to vendors that are owed money from the state," he said. "But then, when the state finally gets its act together and sends out payments, it then goes to the lender, who gets the full price and sometimes interest.”
But that interest is essentially paid for by taxpayers. Bennett says the legislation does not intend to prioritize dentists over other groups struggling without a state budget. He says once a budget is passed, this problem would go away.
It would solve the cash crunch for dentists who depend on business from state employees, but Bennett said no one’s coming out of the budget impasse a winner.
“When people want to say, ‘Are you prioritizing one group over another?’” Bennett said, "the simple fact is, everyone’s a loser until we get a budget here in the state of Illinois."
At the end of March, Illinois owed more than $4.3 billion to medical providers.