Pritkzer terminates enrollment in immigrant health care program
Governor JB Pritzkers’ administration will close enrollments for a state-funded health insurance program for immigrants under 65 who are in the country without legal permission and limit enrollments for those 65 and older, after that rising costs have forced last-minute compromises on the state budget.
The move drew a swift rebuke from Latino lawmakers and an immigrant health advocacy group who called it unethical and fiscally short-sighted.
The budget proposal Pritzker presented in February included $220 million for the program, but by early May, projections had increased to $1.1 billion for next year as enrollments continued to exceed expectations.
To close the deal on the state’s $50.4 billion budget, Pritzker struck a deal with the Democrat-controlled General Assembly that earmarked $550 million for the program and gave his administration the tools to oversee it. costs. The second-term Democratic governor has essentially agreed to take political responsibility for limiting access to the program after declaring a year ago that everyone, regardless of documentation status, deserves access to holistic health coverage.
The changes, which will go into effect with the start of the state’s new budget year on July 1, also include quotas for emergency and hospital services when the state cannot receive matching funds from the federal government.
Those who are already enrolled in the program will continue to receive coverage, the administration said.
The Illinois Department of Health and Family Services, which administers the program, announced the changes Friday after Pritzker signed a measure earlier in the day that gave the agency the authority to make program changes to contain costs.
Health and Family Services referred to the action taken Friday as a pause in new enrollments and said they hoped to resume new enrollments as soon as fiscally possible.
State Representative Edgar Gonzalez of Chicago, who represents the Little Village neighborhood and serves as group leader of the Latino Caucus for House Democrats, said he was extremely disappointed with the course of action.
It doesn’t just affect Latinos, but all of Illinois, Gonzalez said in a text message, who voted in favor of the measure that gave the Pritzker administration the power to make changes to the program. After years of a global pandemic you would think the state would understand firsthand what lack of healthcare does to vulnerable populations.
The Illinois Latin Legislative Caucus released a statement on Friday urging those currently eligible for the program to enroll before the listings close next month.
Created in 2020, the program originally provided Medicaid-style coverage to immigrants age 65 and older who are in the country without legal permission or who have green cards but have not completed a five-year waiting period and are not therefore eligible for the traditional health insurance program for the poor, which is jointly funded by the federal government.
Since then, the program has been expanded twice and now covers those over 42.
Advocates and some Democratic lawmakers pushed during the spring legislative session to further expand the program to cover those over 19, though lawmakers suspended that effort when it became clear there were questions whether the state could afford to fund the existing program at its current level.
A statewide coalition that has pushed for the program and its expansion denounced the changes in a statement Friday, saying the governor is turning away from the communities he supports Illinois welcomes and aligns with anti-immigrant Republicans all over the country.
Because of Governor Pritzker’s decision, there are people who will be forced to forego cancer treatments, diabetes treatments, mental health treatments and countless other types of necessary medical care, Healthy Illinois said in a statement. Today’s move is immoral and fiscally short-sighted.
The group highlighted remarks Pritzker made after signing the state budget earlier this month in which it said: We save money when we invest in health care for undocumented immigrants.
The Latino Caucus made clear on Friday that its members have not given up on further expansion.
We were proud to fight to make Illinois the first state in the nation to offer Medicaid-like benefits to these communities, the group statement said. However, this regression is disappointing.
We will continue to fight for health care for all Illinoisans. Members of the Latino Caucus have not given up and will continue to close the gap in coverage until we achieve health care for all residents.
Pritzker’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the criticisms.
As of June 7, there were 63,255 people enrolled in the program, including 14,594 people age 65 and older, according to Health and Family Services. There were 32,612 participants aged 42 to 54, the group that became eligible on July 1.
Under rules introduced on Friday, enrollment will be closed for those aged 65 and over if enrollment for the age group reaches 16,500.
Individuals enrolled in the program will be hooked on copays of $250 for hospital stays and $100 for emergency room visits if the services they receive are not eligible for reimbursement from the federal government. There will also be a 10% co-insurance fee for outpatient services at hospitals or outpatient surgery centres.
Among other changes, the new rules will require the Cook County health and hospital system, which has been paid through the program at higher rates than other providers, to reimburse the state for the difference in a method and amount determined by the department. .
From its launch in 2020 through June 7 of this year, the state has spent a total of $726 million on the program, with more than $328 million, or about 45 percent of the total cost, going to the state’s health system. county, according to the state agency.
Cook County Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Chicago Tribunes AD Quig contributed.
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