Has the budget impasse negatively affected you, someone you know, or your community? The office of Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza wants to hear from you.
Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza is the state’s chief fiscal officer, and one of her duties is to make sure the state pays its bills on time. Unfortunately, the Comptroller can’t pay bills on time because Illinois has gone nearly two years without a budget.
Every day, she and her staff do what they can to preempt emergencies — like a social service provider closing its doors or an Illinois resident losing the home health care she needs to live. While the Comptroller is doing her best to prevent emergencies, the reality is that our state is in the midst of the worst fiscal crisis in its history, and she can’t help everyone who needs payment.
One thing she can do, is tell the stories of Illinoisans who are negatively affected by the budget impasse, so the state’s leaders can face the fact that they are not just numbers on a spreadsheet; they are real people who are being hurt. Our leaders and fellow citizens need to know the personal toll that this unnecessary crisis is having on families, friends and neighbors across the state.
Comptroller Mendoza, I am a tenured professor in southern Illinois. I worked at John A. Logan college and last March our Board voted to lay off 40% of the tenured faculty due to the budget impass. We are already an economically depressed region of the state, our k-12 doesn't even get enough funding to know if it can remain functioning. We need a budget! I need to get back to work!
Because of the budget impasse, Cigna is not paying claims for insurance. I am being billed for the entire amount of my surgery in 2015. I cannot go see a doctor because I cannot afford to pay for it out of pocket. So far, I have stayed healthy, but for how long? My annual mammogram is past due. How do I access medical care?? My dentist was already waiting for over a year to get paid for one appointment at a time. My benefit is supposed to cover twice a year visits, but I forego them because it creates enough of a hardship for the dentist to wait for one appointment to be paid. I have a tooth that is bothering me, but I cannot go to the dentist because no one will pay for the appointment, and I cannot afford to pay for it myself.
As a result of the impasse, my dentist asks people with Illinois dental insurance to pay 100% up front and I was able to do that for a time. But paying my co-pay and what insurance should pay for both me and my wife for visit-after-visit became too much to bear. These costs were on top of my monthly premium, and they compound over time. It got to the point where the State/Delta Dental owes me nearly $1,000. To give you a sense of how late the payments are, I finally just received a check for a visit in May 2015, and I’m still owed for all remaining 2015 and 2016 visits. I have a 4 year old who will begin going to the dentist this year. It became impossible for my family budget to absorb paying 100% for a third person. I am the sole breadwinner for a family of 4, and you can imagine the difficulties in managing a family budget when you’re $1,000 in the hole and growing. So we recently had to change dentists to a practice that, at least for now, does not require 100% payment. And I still wait for what I am owed. I don’t know how it is legal for someone like me to pay a monthly insurance premium for insurance I seemingly do not get to use. One other way in which the impasse affects my family, unrelated to insurance, is that we’re quickly approaching buying our first home. But the crisis that the impasse has put on public higher education has put those plans on hold, as I must prepare for the ‘what if’ of mass layoffs. The doomsday situation that the impasse has inflicted on public higher education has created a dark cloud hanging over the campus on which I work and morale is astoundingly low. The parade of terrible financial news regarding my institution because of no budget and no hope has caused much anxiety in my life to the point where I began seeing a counselor and taking an anti-depressant.
The Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA) is the founding organization of the Parent Mentor Program and has had the program for more than 20 years. This year the program is active in 9 schools in our community. In these schools we have 135 parents serving 4,050 students. We are worried at this time. We have provided training, mentoring, weekly workshops and paid all of the parents their first stipend. In order to do this, we have used our line of credit which is nearing exhaustion. Losing this program mid-year would be another blow to our already vulnerable schools – teachers, parents, and of course students. We are deeply committed to the effort to bring parents into schools to improve the schools’ academic performance, but the price is putting an incredible strain on LSNA’s ability to operate as functioning organization. We have been providing services in good faith – through planning over the summer and hiring parents and coordinators in September. That means we have been working for over 8 months with no payment.
At A Safe Place, the only organization dedicated solely to domestic violence in all of Lake County, we are struggling. While domestic violence continues to rise, our funding continues to be cut and due to the budget crisis, we have been forced to eliminate services. We have been enduring these cuts since 2014 due to limited grant funding options. While we served over 16,000 individuals in 2014, 2015 dropped to over 13,000, and now with no state budget, we were only able to serve a little over 11,000 individuals. This is not due to a lack of need. On average, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience domestic violence. In our county, that means over 87,000 women and 50,000 men will need our services. Right now, necessary positions go unfilled, waiting lists increase, and over 500 families were turned away from emergency shelter last year. In Illinois, domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness. Individuals and children can be forced to choose between homelessness and abuse. As a non-profit, it is not a matter of not saving. We are not able to keep reserve cash for situations such as this, where 47% of our funding is suddenly cut. We depend on the state for funding, just as the state depends on us to execute necessary services and promote the general welfare.
I commend the Comptroller for facing the SIU staff recently and acknowledging the situation the State employees face regarding their health insurance coverage. I'd like you to be aware of how far reaching this problem is. I am a State Retiree, wintering in Florida, I am not Medicare eligible and only have Cigna through the State. I needed a doctor and made an appointment with a Florida physician. While he did see me, I subsequently received a call from his office that he would not accept me as a patient as I had insurance through the State of Illinois and he had been notified it would be up to 24 months to receive payment. He had referred me to a specialist, and upon arriving at that appointment I was informed, in front of a room full of people, that it would be necessary for me to pay the full cost up front as I have State of Illinois insurance and they would not wait 18-24 months for payment. I worked for the State 39 years, and now I'm singled out for public humiliation. I cannot financially front the cost of necessary medical care, and like others, am going without. How degrading for a dedicated civil servant of 39 years!
My name is Jennifer Wallace, and I am a face of cancer. Also, I am a victim of the State of Illinois budget impasse. We are humans that have faces, names, and emotions that are impacted by Governor Rauner’s decision not to pass a budget. There are so many state employees like me that have been negatively affected by Governor Rauner’s agenda. I pay my insurance premiums each month, but the state has not paid their portion. For some of us, these medical services are a necessity for survival. The lack of a budget, and the lack of the state paying medical bills is a cause for concern because this could be a death sentence for those that have state coverage. There are enough stressors in life that I deal with, but I should not be stressed over whether I can get medical treatment. I was diagnosed in 2007 with late stage cancer, and the closest specialist for my type of cancer is at Washington University. I’ve had three major surgeries and two separate rounds of chemotherapy since my diagnosis. The cancer has reoccurred two times since the initial diagnosis, and I go every three months to the specialist. The budget impasse affected me on January 4, 2017, when I went to the doctor’s office and I was told by the receptionist that she would need to get approval for me to be seen by a billing supervisor. I had to be approved for services by someone that doesn’t have a medical degree. I was told the doctors are not accepting any new patients with State of Illinois insurance due to the lack of payment. Subsequently, I was approved, but I was informed that in three months I may be required to pay the full amount out of pocket at the next visit. Due to my medical condition, I take daily medication and at this point I don’t know when the pharmacy will stop providing medication for my illness due to the lack of payment. This is a recurring theme across the state, and the providers are victims too.
I am a tenured professor at Rock Valley College, a 2-year institution in Rockford, IL. I was informed last month that I would be subject to a Reduction in Force due to the ongoing budget impasse leading to insufficient funding for our college. Twenty-seven other faculty members are losing their jobs along with me. This is on top of 30 non-faculty employees and 14 vacant positions cut during the previous academic year. Rock Valley College has long been a transformative force in Rockford, a beacon of light in a city that struggled to recover in the wake of deindustrialization. Seeing the college and the city suffer as a result of the impasse is beyond comprehension. These effects are exactly the opposite of what we would want from our leadership, and exactly the opposite of what they promise to deliver. This story is not unique. In fact, it is nearly ubiquitous among colleges and universities across the state. At some point, the damage done will be irreparable. And for individuals like myself who are losing jobs, and for others who are losing services, this is already the case.