(The Center Square) – Rules for how Illinois taxpayers will subsidize the ballooning costs of health care for noncitizen migrants in the state are now on the books after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a Medicaid omnibus bill Friday.
In 2020, former state Rep. Delila Ramirez, D-Chicago, included in the annual budget Medicaid benefits for migrant seniors over the age of 65. She estimated the benefit then would affect fewer than 900 people and estimated a $1.8 million cost to taxpayers.
Last year, lawmakers decreased the age to 42 and older for noncitizens to be eligible for Medicaid.
“It is meeting the goal of expanding health-care coverage, particularly after and during the pandemic,” said state Sen. Ann Gillespie, D-Arlington Heights. “We are trying to make sure we are taking care of as many people as we can.”
A recent Healthcare and Family Services audit estimated that the subsidies for noncitizen health care could cost taxpayers more than $1 billion. No federal matching tax dollars are available for such programs.
“The HFS report shows a dramatic growth in undocumented immigrant participation, which will require nearly a billion dollars in general revenue funds to support this program in fiscal year 2024,” state Rep. Norine Hammond, R-Macomb, said in April.
The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services filed emergency and regular rules Friday for the Health Benefits for Immigrant Adults and Health Benefits for Immigrant Seniors programs found in Senate Bill 1298 Pritzker signed.
“In passing the FY24 State budget and Senate Bill 1298, the General Assembly directed the Department to ensure the HBIA and HBIS programs do not exceed the funds available and appropriated by the General Assembly for FY24,” the department said. “At this time, enrollment in the Health Benefits for Immigrant Seniors program will remain open. However, HBIS enrollment will be temporarily paused for FY24 if the number of individuals enrolled in the program reaches 16,500.”
The department said the changes are necessary to bring the program costs within the budgeted amount for the coming fiscal year that begins July 1.
“Compared with the traditional Medicaid population, month-over-month enrollment has grown at a higher rate, and per-enrollee costs have tracked higher among the HBIA and HBIS-enrolled populations due to more prevalent, untreated chronic conditions and higher hospital costs,” the department said.
Several other changes are being made to keep the taxpayer cost down, the department said, including co-pays of up to $250 “when they are not eligible for federal match.”