Illinois Takes First Critical Step

Towards Comprehensive Health Coverage for Immigrant Community

Everyone deserves access to affordable, comprehensive health coverage​.

Healthy Illinois Campaign applauds the​ Illinois General Assembly for passing a FY 2021 budget that funds comprehensive health coverage for immigrant seniors made especially vulnerable by the COVID-19 crisis. The allocation, which includes language from​ ​ HB 4891 (Ramirez)​ ​ / ​ SB 3703 (Aquino)​, the ​ Healthy Illinois For All bill, will create a pathway to health coverage for all low-income Illinois residents aged 65 and older, with household incomes of up to 100% FPL ($​ 12,760​ for an individual) regardless of their immigration status. In doing so, Illinois took a monumental and critical ​ first ​ step towards expanding health care coverage to all undocumented uninsured Illinoisans—starting with our seniors first. This approach will continue Illinois’ leadership by being the first state in the nation to provide Medicaid-like coverage to undocumented seniors.

“Healthcare access is a fundamental right that should be guaranteed to all regardless of immigration status. This pandemic has shown the ways public health binds us all together and that denying healthcare to some hurts us all. I am proud that we have taken this important first step to care for our most vulnerable and will continue to work towards universal healthcare for all.”

—Rep Delia Ramirez (D-4), House bill sponsor and chief champion of ​ Healthy Illinois For All

“This unprecedented crisis necessitates unity and empathy, and a recognition that everyone deserves meaningful access to health care. Providing health coverage to our low-income uninsured seniors is just the start! I will continue to stand and fight with the immigrant community until all uninsured are covered.”

—Rep Lisa Hernandez (D-24), Assistant Majority Leader, Co-Chair of the Illinois Latino Legislative Caucus

“In the face of everything that is going on in our nation’s politics, Illinois must stand up and offer itself as a beacon of hope to those communities being dehumanized on a daily basis. We must guarantee human rights to all people, especially health care. We must guarantee health care to all people, especially those who are systematically denied access to it. Low-income and immigrant communities must have access to the services that they pay into and deserve as human beings.”

—Sen Omar Aquino (D-2), Senate bill sponsor, Majority Caucus Whip, and Co-Chair of the Illinois Latino Legislative Caucus

The COVID-19 public health crisis is devastating our senior population and undocumented seniors are made especially vulnerable because they are currently ineli​ gible for Medicaid, Medicare, or ACA coverage – despite paying state and local taxes. An estimated 400 Illinois seniors aged 65 and over w​ho would otherwise be income-eligible for Medicaid, aren’t able to receive coverage simply because of their immigration status. COVID-19 has shown that our public health is interdependent: our seniors need meaningful access to healthcare to help ensure the health of ALL Illinoisans, both during this pandemic and future expected outbreaks.

This budget allocation is in response to the fact that an uninsured low-income COVID-19 positive senior will endure a much more severe course of COVID-19, incurring very expensive medical bills. This vital step will also ensure that Illinois emerges stronger from this crisis—by lowering Illinois’s uninsured rate, reducing health care providers’ uncompensated care, and ensuring a more equitable health care system for all Illinoisans.

Healthy Illinois Campaign wants to especially thank Rep. Delia Ramirez, Rep. Lisa Hernandez, Sen. Omar Aquino and the entire Illinois Latino Legislative Caucus for responding swiftly and responsibly to blunt the continued spread of COVID-19 as well as for helping prepare our state for the devastating economic aftermath, including to health care providers. As we work towards the Governor’s vision of expanding access to affordable, comprehensive health coverage in Illinois, we know that the urgency is critical for uninsured, low-income undocumented seniors to be prioritized and, have the opportunity to age with dignity and respect. We appreciate your continued leadership in prioritizing ​ Healthy Illinois for All ​ in the state budget.

Quotes from Organizations on Healthy Illinois Steering Committee:

“Today’s vote reinforces the principle made clear in the Assembly floor — health care is a human right. We applaud the Illinois Latino Legislative Caucus for their leadership in ensuring health care coverage for immigrant families. We are heartened by this critical step to uplift the health of vulnerable community members: the urgency is critical for undocumented seniors, who deserve to age with dignity and respect. We now turn to our legislators and Governor to continue building upon this critical opportunity towards comprehensive health coverage for the immigrant communities and Illinoisians all across our state.”

—Carmen Velasquez, Founder Healthy Illinois Campaign and of Alivio Medical Center and immediate past Executive Director

“I am pleased that Governor Priztker and members of the Illinois General Assembly acknowledge the importance in providing health coverage for all. Every Illinoisian should have the right to health care, regardless of immigration status. As opposed to a federal Administration that seeks to take away health care, Illinois is showing a path to health for all, recognizing that our health is interconnected and we all benefit when everyone has access to quality, affordable and comprehensive coverage. These low-income seniors have contributed a lifetime of work and taxes into Illinois, and should have access to the same primary and preventive care, which helps make the health system stronger for everyone.”

—Esther Corpuz, CEO, Alivio Medical Center

“​TRP applauds the Latino Caucus for expanding healthcare coverage to immigrant seniors. Healthcare is a human right. Our current public health crisis demonstrated that protecting the most vulnerable protects all of us. Illinois continues to lead becoming the first state in the nation to provide immigrant seniors with an option for healthcare coverage ensuring they can receive the lifesaving care they need.”

—Eréndira Rendón, Vice President, Immigrant Advocacy & Defense Project, The Resurrection Project (TRP)

“​Illinois leaders have taken a critical first step in protecting a population vulnerable to COVID-19 while also beginning to dismantle a long-standing structural inequity. We cannot emerge stronger from this crisis without protecting the health of our low-income uninsured residents. We look forward to continuing this work with Illinois leaders to provide comprehensive health coverage to the remaining uninsured adults—so that everyone can have this basic human right.”

—John Bouman, Shriver Center on Poverty Law, President

“The strong support shown in the General Assembly proves that Illinois is ready to take historic steps this year to remove barriers to care and coverage for all Illinoisians. Our healthcare system works better when everyone is covered. Expanding access to Medicaid will not just positively impact the individuals newly covered, but their families, our communities, and the health system on which we all rely.”

—Graciela Guzman, Campaign Director, Healthy Illinois Campaign

“​This Pandemic amplified the urgency of what we have been fighting for at Healthy Illinois. A heartfelt thanks to our Legislators of the passage of HB4891/SB3703. This is only the beginning, there is so much more to be done for our families in Illinois. Thank you again for your leadership.”

—Imelda Salazar, Organizer, The Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP)

“Expanding Medicaid for undocumented seniors is a good first step and we will continue fighting until everyone in Illinois is covered!”

—Luvia Quiñones, Health Policy Director, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR)

“We are delighted to see this health coverage for seniors. It is very important at this stage of their lives, that our people do not worry about paying for health coverage. They cannot work long and heavy hours and their wages are very low. Thanks to everyone for their support of this great proposal for health coverage for older adults. They deserve a dignified and healthy old age. Health is a human right. Let’s make it count. We will continue to fight for all those who do not yet have health insurance so that everyone living in Illinois is covered regardless of their immigration status.”

—Ilda Hernandez, Community Health Worker at Enlace Chicago and Network Coordinator of PAES, a local network of Promotores de Salud.

“For over 100 years, Sinai Health System has provided care for everyone. We are very proud to know that Illinois will be continuing to make sure that some of our most vulnerable people and communities will have healthcare that they certainly deserve. This will keep all of us healthier and more safe.”

—Karen Teitelbaum, CEO and President, Sinai Health System

“Community health centers were founded to ensure access to care in underserved communities. For more than fifty years, our member organizations have cared for everyone who walks through the doorregardless of insurance coverage, ability to pay, or immigration status. Today, as Illinois becomes the first state in the nation to expand medical assistance to undocumented seniors, we stand with Healthy Illinois in support of the belief that health care is a right, not a privilege.”

—Jordan Powell, CEO + President at the Illinois Primary Health Care Association.

“​Make no mistake, access to comprehensive health care is a basic human right that should be afforded to all Illinoisans, especially the most vulnerable in our communities. COVID-19 has shone a bright light on the vast health disparities and outcomes experienced by the uninsured, our Black, Latinx and Indigenous communities, in addition to people living with or vulnerable to HIV. We are elated that Illinois policymakers have agreed to provide healthcare coverage to low-income, uninsured seniors ages 65 and older. While this is certainly a positive first step in the right direction, our advocacy will not waver or falter until all Illinoisans are provided the healthcare coverage they deserve and structural inequalities are addressed that besiege the most vulnerable among us. We look forward to continued discussions with Illinois legislators to reach that desired end.”

—Timothy Jackson, Director of Government Relations, AIDS Foundation Chicago

“​At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has put a bright spotlight on the health inequities faced by communities of color, it is so encouraging that the Illinois General Assembly took the courageous step to extend health coverage to Illinois seniors regardless of immigration status. This initiative will save lives and shows a path forward to a more equitable health care system on the other side of this pandemic.”

—Dan Rabbitt, Heartland Alliance, Senior Project Manager, Health Policy

“​Health care expansions save lives, and this expansion is no exception. Healthy Illinois for All creates a pathway to coverage for older adults in Illinois, and families will be healthier for it. EverThrive Illinois now urges the General Assembly to turn their attention to undocumented pregnant and postpartum Illinoisans. To meaningfully address the maternal mortality crisis in Illinois, it is important that every birth parent has quality coverage during the 12-month postpartum period. Let’s build upon the success of the Healthy Illinois for All and make a plan to ensure postpartum coverage for every birth parent in Illinois.”

—Chi Chi Okwu, Executive Director of EverThrive Illinois

Updates

Illinois Takes First Critical Step

Towards Comprehensive Health Coverage for Immigrant Community
May 24, 2020

The​ Illinois General Assembly passed a FY 2021 budget that funds comprehensive health coverage for immigrant seniors made especially vulnerable by the COVID-19 crisis.

New Campaign Director

October 2, 2019

Jesse Hoyt has departed from the organization. Graciela Guzman has taken his role.

Public Charge Panel

October 2, 2019

Thank you to Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and Access Living for organizing this extremely important Public Charge Panel at the Chicagoland Immigration and Disability Summit.

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