Illinois senators are working on a solution to head off a potential doctor shortage. The fund which provides for licensing and disciplining doctors has dried up, and the state has had to lay off 18 of the 26 workers who do this. A bill to increase the fee doctors pay for their licenses passed a committee on a party-line vote.
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“There’s a real crisis in the state of Illinois. We’ve learned recently we lost a neurosurgeon to Minnesota because this issue has percolated beyond the state borders and into the broader medical and hospital community across the country,” Illinois Hospital Association lobbyist A.J. Wilhelmi told the committee. “We also know that there are two cancer surgeons who are waiting to come to one of our best teaching hospitals in the state of Illinois because of this issue.”
While Republicans generally voiced displeasure with the idea of interfund borrowing to rehire the 18 workers immediately, then repaying the loan as the increased fees caught up with the program, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) asked whether in a department of more than 500 people, “you could not find eight people to redirect to do the license situation now?” The answer from the director of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, Manny Flores, was “If we did that, we would be sweeping funds from other dedicated funds, which we are not authorized to do.”
A doctor’s license in Illinois costs $300 and is good for three years. The fee has not been raised since 1987. The Senate bill, like a House proposal, raises that to $700. Unlike the House bill, the Senate bill eventually reduces it to $500.