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Lawmaker: Pause to noncitizen health care subsidies won’t put out ‘fire’ Pritzker started

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(The Center Square) – In order to not break the $550 million budget for taxpayers subsidizing noncitizen migrant health care in Illinois, the Pritzker administration is pausing one part of the program. A state lawmaker says the ballooning costs will continue to hit taxpayers one way or another.

In 2020, Illinois enacted state taxpayer subsidies for the health care of noncitizens over the age of 65. The cost was estimated then to approach $2 million. Last year, the program was expanded to noncitizen adults over 42. One estimate said for the coming fiscal year, the program could cost over $1 billion.

After signing the budget earlier this month, Gov. J.B. Pritzker acknowledged the ballooning costs.

“The continuing number of people who are signing up for that program was rising at a very rapid rate, more rapidly than people had anticipated when the program was put in place,” Pritzker said. “We had $220 million in the program already, and we realized that if we could manage it properly, we could manage the program with the number of people that are in it now to about $550 million.”

Friday, Pritzker’s administration announced the 42 to 65 program will be suspended next month, saying “per-enrollee costs have tracked higher … due to more prevalent, untreated chronic conditions and higher hospital costs.”

While the Health Benefits for Immigrant Adults program will be suspended starting July 1, the Health Benefits for Immigrant Seniors will remain open but will pause if the number of individuals exceeds 16,500.

“[The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services] understands that this program is a vital resource for individuals who would otherwise be eligible for Medicaid but for their immigration status,” the agency said Friday. “The Department understands the importance of preserving this nation-leading program for the future.”

Among other cost control measures, the administration will implement a $250 copay for hospitalizations, $100 copay for emergency room visits and a 10% coinsurance for outpatient services.

Pritzker supported the programs overall.

“Because you know what happens if they don’t get health care, basic health care, they end up in an emergency room and we all end up paying for that at a much higher cost than if we have preventative care and regular care for people,” Pritzker said.

State Sen. Jason Plummer, R-Edwardsville, said suspension or not, taxpayers will pay.

“The governor is trying to put out a fire of his making and he’s not going to be able to put it out,” Plummer told The Center Square.

Plummer notes the costs of the program are already inflated for Illinois taxpayers because there is no matching federal dollars to cover the costs. He said it’s one thing to be considered a “sanctuary state.” It’s another thing to have subsidy programs in place that encourage more noncitizen migrants to Illinois at taxpayer expense.

“It’s just driving up costs for everyone and maybe the governor thinks he’s saving the state money but he’s really just offsetting those expenses,” Plummer said. “Because of [Pritzker’s] public policies, they’re going to be accrued by somebody.”

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