Judge Could Rule on Bill Prioritization Soon

A federal judge says she'll decide soon whether to order Illinois to pay health-care bills for low-income and other groups even as the state heads into another fiscal year without a budget.

Judge Joan Lefkow said during a Tuesday morning hearing in Chicago that she'd deliberate on the question of forcing Medicaid payments and post a ruling in the civil case later.

Lawyers for the state say any such order could make it even harder to grapple with a backlog of unpaid bills of more than $14 billion and rising.

But advocates for low-income families and others who rely on Medicaid say an order would help clarify that payments to health-care providers should be as high or a higher priority than other payments, including state salaries.