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SPRINGFIELD - Illinois hospitals and the Illinois Attorney General's office clashed Tuesday over a proposal requiring not-for-profit medical centers to provide more charity care.

Illinois Hospital Association president Ken Robbins said Attorney General Lisa Madigan's proposal requiring not-for-profits to set aside 8-percent of their total operating costs for charity care is "dangerous."

Robbins suggested the measure would put some hospitals into a budgetary tailspin.

"Hospitals have to pay their bills, too," he said.

Anne Murphy, senior counsel to the attorney general, said the association doesn't want any standards to be set for not-for-profit hospitals that get all types of tax breaks.

"They don't want there to be any quantifiable standard at all," she said. "What they will say is 'We exist, so we deserve our tax exemption.'"

Lawmakers also raised concerns that Madigan's definition of charity care doesn't include mobile mammography units or free immunization services.

"These bills come after the one entity that has done more than any other entity including the Illinois General Assembly and the governor, to help us deal with the large population of people, who don't have health insurance or are inadequately covered," said state Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon.

Murphy countered that the measure allows hospitals to count these services as charity care, if they get approval from the attorney general's office.

"It is fair and flexible. It is not intended to put hospitals out of business," she said. "It is designed to require the hospitals that are not providing enough charity care to do so."

Murphy said the proposal also allows hospitals to count the shortfall from Medicaid reimbursements towards the 8-percent level.

Robbins argues this takes control away from local hospital boards and "hands it over to one person sitting in Chicago or Springfield."

The House has not yet taken up the proposal for debate.

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