Groups tell Blago to release health reimbursements

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Some state legislators and healthcare advocates have started pressing scandal-plagued Gov. Rod Blagojevich to immediately release $8 million in state reimbursements for children’s specialty doctors that he allegedly used to seek a campaign contribution.

Some state legislators and healthcare advocates have started pressing scandal-plagued Gov. Rod Blagojevich to immediately release $8 million in state reimbursements for children’s specialty doctors that he allegedly used to seek a campaign contribution. "I think he is under an obligation to do something for specialty care children," said Stephanie Altman, a director for Health and Disability Advocates. "To hold up $8 million, $10 million or whatever it is when it’s needed right now, I think that’s horrible." Blagojevich was charged Dec. 9 in a criminal complaint accusing him of threatening to withhold the reimbursements unless he got a $50,000 campaign donation from Patrick Magoon, president and CEO of Children’s Memorial Hospital. The hospital spearheaded efforts to get the reimbursements. The $8 million was to have been distributed to hospitals and providers statewide that give speciality care to low-income children. Magoon, who refused to make the contribution according to the criminal complaint, has not been charged with wrongdoing. Blagojevich has denied wrongdoing. In a statement Sunday, Blagojevich said he ordered an increase of reimbursement rates for pediatric hospitals in September, but they won’t take effect until February to ensure the process is "handled correctly." "Increasing the reimbursement rate is a complicated procedure that requires the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services to work closely with hospitals and pediatric specialists to ensure every treatment and procedure is properly reimbursed," he said in the statement. Blagojevich was impeached Friday by the Illinois House. If convicted at the upcoming Senate trial, he will be removed from office. Rep. Susana Mendoza, a Chicago Democrat, led efforts last year to raise Medicaid reimbursements rates for speciality-care pediatric doctors. She has called Blagojevich’s alleged actions "repugnant." "Those sick children, governor; they’re still waiting and they trusted and needed you, and you abandoned them," she said.

______ Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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