IL budget backlog affects some customers at Marion eye doctor

Southern IL families receive bills due to state suspending healthcare provider payments

MARION, IL (KFVS) - Marion Eye Center and Optical recently sent out letters to patients with Illinois State Employees Group Insurance plan notifying families of the situation with the state.

Illinois lawmakers have failed to approve a formal state spending plan in more than a year. Since then, many state-funded programs and services have been cut off from funding.

For more than a year, medical insurance providers have been halted. Now, Marion Eye Center and Optical is requesting payment from members who participate in state insurance plans, according to a letter from the center.

The general manager of Marion Eye Center, Scherrie Eastwood, said the letters were sent to patients to make them aware of the situation.

"We really empathize with them," Eastwood said. "We want them to be aware that they [the state] haven't paid us for more than a year."

Eastwood said patient care would not be affected. All patients will be treated and bills will not be sent to collections. However, if those bills are paid by customers now, they will be refunded with 9 percent interest once the state pays the Marion Eye Center.

James Tyrrell is a retired professor and administrator at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. His wife Jie, still serves as a professor at the university and both are insured under the Illinois State Employees Group Insurance Plan.

Last week, the family opened their mail to find a bill for $3,002.23 from the Marion Eye Center. Jie Tyrrell has a medical condition that requires her to see the eye doctor frequently.

"As a result of this decision, Marion Eye Center and Optical must change how we do business," the letter explained.

James Tyrrell sent a letter to SIU System President Randy Dunn to inform him of the negative effects the state stalemate is having on University employees.

Tyrrell said it isn't so much the bill that bothered him, but the ethics of the situation. Tyrrell said Illinois lawmakers have failed the people of the state with their unwillingness to compromise.

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