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Cook County hospitals' total cost: $1.1 billion
By Rob Olmstead | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 10/15/2008 4:59 PM

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The true cost of the Cook County hospital system is roughly $1.1 billion for 2009, documents recently released by interim hospitals CEO David Small show.

That figure, for the first time, includes the cost of yearly pension expenses. Prior to the hospital being given over to an independent board this year, the pensions figure had always been carried on separate county books. The new board, even though it has not yet been asked to carry the cost of the pension expenses on its books, decided to get a handle on the true cost of the hospital system as part of generally accepted accounting procedures.

The $1.1 billion figure represents what the hospitals system is seeking from the Cook County Board and President Todd H. Stroger. When pension and other costs currently being carried on the county's books, rather than the hospitals books, are subtracted, the budget is roughly $1 billion.

The $1.1 billion budget is roughly $80 million larger than last year's budget and seeks 415 new jobs.

The new figures were released late Friday Oct. 10 by Small after a request from the Daily Herald Oct. 3. The packet of supplementary budget information released includes an "overview" of this year's budget request, but not an actual budget. Hospitals board members passed what they called a "budget" on Oct. 3, but it is not clear if the document they passed included an actual spending and income plan, or just the supplementary documentation portion of what Small released Oct. 10. He could not be reached for clarification Wednesday.

Part of the confusion stems from the hospital system's desire to produce a generally accepted accounting procedures budget, which differs from the line-item, cash basis budget the county uses. Hospital administrators must now load their budget information into the county's format.

"Following the completion of loading the... budget, the ... finance team will ... then formally submit the FY 2009... budget to the County Board President and Cook County Board of Commissioners for their review and approval. At that time, we will provide this detailed preliminary budget to you," wrote Small in a letter to the Daily Herald Oct. 10.