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Illinois taxpayer subsidies for migrant health care could run over budget this fall, some warn

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(The Center Square) – Illinois lawmakers are concerned the taxpayer-funded migrant health care program will run out of money by this fall.

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. Questions remain on how the state will afford it.

The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, a bipartisan group of Illinois legislators that review administrative state agency rule making, hosted Illinois Department of Health and Human Services officials Tuesday to discuss the state’s plan. Most of the discussion revolved around how the project would be paid for, as IDHS officials estimate the program to cost nearly $120 million a month.

With only $550 million in the state’s budget for immigrant health care, state Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, said the state could run out of money for the program in only a few months.

“Do you have something that is triggering that, that you are foreseeing budgetary wise that you’re like ‘we don’t have enough money,’ ” Castro said. “I mean, you’re saying we don’t have money, but you say you will run out in November.”

State Sen. Don Dewitte, R-St. Charles, said continuously paying for this service is nearly impossible with how the budget is set up.

“Regarding that $550 million budget constraint assignment that you’ve all been given, again, I think Tom Cruise should be here because I see this as mission impossible, frankly,” Dewitte said.

JCAR lawmakers also took issue with how the planning for the health care program has taken place and believe they are being put in a tricky spot to come up with a solution to the problems surrounding these costs.

“If next year I go back to my community and the dollar amount is tripled, people are going to upset with me because I voted to triple this amount for these people,” said state Rep. Curtis Tarver, D-Chicago. “If I go back to my community next year and the amount is slashed, then people will be upset we slashed the dollar amount.”

State Rep. Steven Reick, R-Woodstock, said Pritzker’s handling of the whole situation is to blame for the budgetary issues as Pritzker deemed the situation to be an emergency when many believe it was not.

“The responsibility of this goes a lot higher than you folks,” Reick told IDHS officials. “This is another instance of a governor who thinks he can run this state on his own. First, he did it with his forty-something disaster declarations, and now he is doing it with emergency rule.”

The committee announce they will continue the discussion in August.

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