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Changes to Illinois immigrant health care programs will affect many people

SPRINGFIELD — Thousands of non-U.S. citizens living in Illinois will no longer be eligible for government-funded health benefits as Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration looks for ways to cut costs for two programs that came close to derailing state budget talks last year.

The Illinois Department of Health and Family Services predicts that as many as 6,000 people will lose coverage by next month if the state stops offering the programs’ benefits to those who have green cards but have not completed the five-year waiting period in the U.S.

Individuals in this category will no longer be eligible for benefits provided through two programs, Health Benefits for Immigrant Adults and Health Benefits for Immigrant Elders, until May 1. Affected individuals will then need to re-apply for coverage through the federal Affordable Care Act. The ministry said Insurance Marketplace provides subsidies to non-citizens living legally in the country.

“It is important to note that all enrolled groups identified for the changes have alternative coverage options,” HFS spokesperson Jamie Munks said in an email. said. “These individuals will be eligible for Medicaid coverage if they meet eligibility requirements after five years in the country. We understand this creates health insurance turbulence for these individuals, and we will do everything we can to help make the transition as smooth as possible.”

Munks said HFS is working with the state’s Department of Insurance to ensure that so-called referrers can assist those recipients in signing up for a new plan.

The state budgeted $550 million for programs last year, and Pritzker is proposing $440 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1. At a hearing before the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules on Tuesday, Health and Family Services executive director Dana Kelly said removing designated group recipients from the two programs would save just over $13 million.

“We will notify them of this change next week and they will be entitled to a special registration period in the Health Insurance Marketplace,” he said.

State Rep. Norma Hernandez, a Democrat from Melrose Park, criticized the changes as “a short-term cost-saving measure, not a long-term one” and expressed concerns about whether the navigation devices would be enough to help thousands of people through a complex process. With only a month and a half left before government-funded health care expires, the enrollment process can be complicated by language barriers.

“Even for me, I have education, I have a health care background, I have a master’s degree, it’s hard for me to understand copays and deductibles and all that,” said Hernandez. “I actually have a good lifestyle, right? Then there are people who make less than $30,000 a year, less than $20,000 a year, and now they’re going to have to figure out how they’re going to pay for their health care.

In addition to proposing $440 million from the state’s general revenue fund for the programs next year, Pritzker also suggested about $200 million in additional spending could be allocated to the two programs through other revenue streams. More than half of that will come from a federal match to emergency services funding.

Illinois first offered health benefits in 2020. The programs initially provided Medicaid-style insurance to immigrants who were in the country without legal authorization or who had a green card but had not completed the five-year waiting period and who were 65 or older. therefore, it is not eligible for the traditional health insurance program.
The poor are co-financed by the federal government. The programs have been expanded twice and now include people ages 42 and older.

The two programs launched in Illinois come at a time when Medicaid redetermination (annual checks that verify whether an enrollee is eligible for the benefit) has been paused by the federal government during the COVID-19 pandemic. Munks said first-time enrollees in government-funded immigrant health care programs, which are separate from Medicaid, will be identified again this year.

Health care programs became a major sticking point in budget negotiations last year. Pritzker proposed $220 million for the program in his budget proposal a year ago. But when estimated costs rose to $1.1 billion, he reached a deal that set aside $550 million for benefits.

The subsequent move to limit enrollment drew criticism from Latino communities at the time. The group Healthy Illinois, which advocates for the program, called Pritzker’s decision “immoral and fiscally shortsighted.”

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, have indicated they are having trouble continuing to fund the program this year.

Before last year’s funding issues, Pritzker said he believed “everyone deserves access to holistic health care coverage, regardless of documentation status.”

The programs do not primarily cover asylum seekers coming to Chicago from Texas.

Olander reported and Laura Rodriguez Presa contributed in Chicago.

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