Low-income immigrants ages 65 and older in Illinois will be eligible for health care coverage that is similar to Medicaid despite their immigration status. The expanded health care coverage was a part of the state budget that passed this year.
According to the Chicago Tribune, between 400 and 2,000 non-citizens of the U.S. Who live in Illinois are expected to sign up for the program. Illinois will become the first state to fully fund a health coverage program for noncitizen immigrant older people in the country.
An unpublished Rush University Medical Center study shows that the population of older immigrants with severe health complications is expected to grow in the next decade. The study is supposed to be published by the end of the month. The study also finds that many immigrants came to the country during their late 20s to 40s in the 1980s, which means that they are now reaching what, under most pension plans and Social Security, would be their retirement years.
The Illinois Latino Legislative Caucus supported the program and advocated on its inclusion in the current state budget. The Healthy Illinois Campaign is advocating for a bill that would guarantee health care for all Illinoisans regardless of income or immigration status since 2016.
Evan Fazio, spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Health & Human Services, told the Tribune that the program is expected to cost the state $5 million. A 2017 study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found Illinois residents without legal status contributed more than $758 million a year in state and local taxes. Because the program is funded by the state, it is not subject to what’s known as the public charge rule, which allows federal authorities considering applications for legalized immigration status to take into account whether someone has received federal welfare benefits.
The enrollment for the program will begin in December, with the option to apply for retroactive coverage which will cover health care bills from the past year. Those eligible can apply through the state website and call centers.