Illinois dentists could see help with state budget crisis bill backlog – Health Care News

on May13

12 May 2017 | 4:57 pm

Dentists in Illinois who treat workers on the state payroll or their family members might get some relief from the swelling backlog of bills they’re owed.

But the deal comes with a money-losing catch: They’ll have to forgo interest payments in return for at least a cut of what they’re owed.

Illinois Senators yesterday unanimously passed Senate Bill 634, which would allow a financial institution, say a bank, to buy dentists’ backlog of bills. They were owed a total of $193.5 million from the state at the end of 2016 amid the ongoing budget standoff between Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrats who control the General Assembly.

While the best solution is to get a state spending plan in place, the proposed legislation “is a way to shake some of that money loose” for dentists, says Greg Johnson, executive director of the Illinois State Dental Society. The Springfield-based lobbying group has been working with lawmakers for more than a year to help dentists get paid.

These providers are mainly small businesses owners, working on their own or with just a few other practitioners. Some have been waiting nearly two years to get paid by the state. To make ends meet, they’ve stopped taking a salary, dipped into savings or borrowed money to make payroll. Even though it violates their contract with Delta Dental, which administers the state’s dental plan, some have resorted to charging their patients upfront anyway.

The bill backlog is the worst for dentists who live in central and southern Illinois, home to large percentages of state workers.

If dentists decide to participate in the proposed program, they would collect a certain percentage of bills they’re owed upfront, then the remaining amount when the state actually pays the financial institutions that bought the bills. In return, dentists would forgo any interest they would have received on the state’s late payments. The financial institutions would keep the interest instead.

Interest payments can be lucrative, since dentists can collect 9 percent interest a year on bills unpaid after 30 days, according to the Illinois Comptroller.

The state has similar programs set up for other vendors. Typically, medical providers aren’t allowed to participate.

The Illinois House still has to vote on the bill, and the legislative session ends May 31. It’s not clear when the proposed legislation will come up for a vote or if the House would support it. Steve Brown, a spokesman for Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, said the House would “take a look” at the bill.



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