CHICAGO - Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich last week signed into law a new five-year hospital assessment program aimed at leveraging about $4 billion in additional federal matching Medicaid funds for the state's not-for-profit hospitals, especially those considered "safety-net" hospitals with high Medicaid volumes.

The new program - which still must receive the approval of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services - will leverage about $640 million annually for hospitals and another $130 million for long-term care and other health programs. It replaces an expiring three-year program that leveraged about $465 million more a year for hospitals. That program, along with a predecessor, leveraged a total of about $2.3 billion for hospitals and state health programs.

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