Illinois non-citizen health care co-pays not ready yet as program near capacity

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(The Center Square) – An Illinois department tasked with running a $550 million health care plan for non-citizens, subsidized by Illinois taxpayers, says they are not yet ready to move forward with cost saving co-pays with the program already nearing capacity.

In 2020, Illinois taxpayers began to subsidize the cost of undocumented immigrant health care for those over the age of 65. In 2022, the state budget included subsidizing coverage for those over the age of 42. As part of the state’s fiscal year 2024 budget that began July 1, Gov. J.B. Pritzker modified the program 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.

Omar Shaker, chief of administrative rules for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, told the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules Tuesday they’re not ready yet to implement the co-pays.

“We do concede that at this time, we are not prepared to move forward with the co-pay and cost-sharing elements,” Shaker said. “The earliest would probably be Jan. 1, but I’m not 100% certain that will be the date.”

Illinois has seen over 16,000 noncitizens arrive over the past 13 months, and more are expected to continue being bused to Chicago from the southern border.

Over the span of several years that the subsidized health care program for migrant seniors has been in effect, Shaker said there are more than 16,100 enrollees in it.

“We have become concerned and are monitoring it at a higher level,” Shaker said.

The Pritzker administration had said the state will suspend the program if enrollment for the Health Benefits for Immigrant Seniors program reaches 16,500. In that July announcement, the administration also said they were going to implement a $100 co-pay for hospital emergency room visits and $250 co-pay for inpatient hospitalizations, measures that have yet to be implemented.

State Rep. Adam Niemerg, R-Dieterich, said the longer the state waits, the more money it will cost taxpayers.

“Illinois is a sanctuary state. If it’s $1.1 billion or $65 million, this is going to keep adding up,” Niemerg told The Center Square. “This is a burden on the taxpayers for illegal immigration. These are illegal aliens that have come into the state of Illinois.”

Shaker said the number of enrollees continued to increase as well. In June, the total was 15,000. Now, there are more than 16,000 enrollees.

Niemerg said there is no way of knowing what this continuing 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.”

Legislators will continue to discuss the plan in the coming months.

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