(The Center Square) – Illinois will pause a program intended to provide taxpayer subsidized health care to the influx of non-citizen arrivals. The program is already up to $831.6 million in projected taxpayer costs.
As part of the state’s fiscal year 2024 budget that began July 1, Gov. J.B. Pritzker modified the state’s health benefits for immigrants programs to only cover those over 65 for a total budgeted amount of $550 million. There would also be co-pays paid for by the enrollee and cost-sharing measures paid for by the service provider.
In July 2023, the total cost of the plan for all ages over 42 was $63.1 million. The taxpayer cost for August totaled $135.9 million.
The Pritzker administration had said they would suspend the program if enrollment for the Health Benefits for Immigrant Seniors program reached 16,500. In that announcement last summer, the administration also said they were going to implement a $100 co-pay for hospital emergency room visits and a $250 co-pay for inpatient hospitalizations. These measures have yet to be implemented.
State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said Friday the state needs to stop putting taxpayer dollars into this program.
“A billion dollars spent projected for migrants, and they only allocated $650 million of that $1.2 billion,” Rose said. “So right off the top, you have half a billion, and the governor says, ‘Trust me, I’ll manage it’. Well, that trust only worked to September.”
The average monthly costs per participant related to the subsidies have also increased.
“I don’t think we should be spending one more penny on this and also let me say this: this is exactly why this budget passed this year was such a phony-baloney budget,” Rose said.
Illinois has seen over 18,000 noncitizens arrive over the past 13 months, and more are expected to continue being bused to Illinois after crossing the southern U.S. border.
Healthy Illinois, a group that supports health care for the arrivals, released a statement urging the population to continue to enroll despite the planned suspension for new enrollees.
“While expected, today’s announcement is still a disappointing step backward from the collective progress our state has made around health care access. The HBIS program provides vital, lifesaving health care services to thousands of vulnerable older adults across Illinois,” the statement said. “After a series of other significant program changes in the past year, pausing enrollment in the HBIS program with short notice will not only limit access to critical health care services, but it will also significantly diminish the state’s ability to care for its elderly residents. We strongly encourage seniors who may qualify for the HBIS program to enroll immediately before the Nov. 6 cutoff date.”
Adam Niemerg, R-Tuetopolis, said there is no way of knowing what this increase will cost taxpayers.
“I’d like to know what the real cost actually is,” Niemerg said. “I’ve asked what is the real cost on Illinois taxpayers as a result of these open border policies.”