Expanding Health Coverage to Older Adults in Illinois
Low-income immigrants, especially undocumented seniors and older adults, face severe barriers to care, including limited options for affordable coverage and the lingering fear and confusing surrounding how using these benefits might draw attention from immigration enforcement. In Illinois, advocates and organizers have been working strategically in the state legislature for years to ensure that everyone has access to coverage regardless of status, beginning with seniors and expanding to include all people in the state. The Healthy Illinois Coalition, directed by Tovia Siegel, has led this effort.
Since its launch in 2014, Healthy Illinois has grown into a state-wide coalition of grassroots community-based organizations, health care providers, and legal and policy organizations focused on creating a pathway to affordable, comprehensive health coverage for low-income, undocumented adults. From the start, all coalition education, outreach, and community-building activities have been driven by directly impacted undocumented immigrants and members of mixed status families who are committed to creating health coverage options for themselves and their communities.
This year’s historic victory is the latest in a series of expansions in Illinois that began two years ago, with a first-of-its-kind law providing state-funded Medicaid-like coverage to low-income seniors aged 65 and older, regardless of immigration status. Since its passage, the “Health Benefits for Immigrant Seniors Program,” (HBIS) has expanded to include adults aged 55-64 years old in 2021, and again this year to cover adults 42 and older. “By increasing older Illinoisans’ access to comprehensive health coverage, this program will decrease their risk of developing severe COVID-19 and address other underlying health issues”, Tovia explained.