The Crusader Newspaper Group

Health & Medicine calls on Gov. Pritzker to reverse decision to deny medical care to immigrants

On Friday, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services abruptly announced that enrollment for the Health Benefits for Immigrant Adults (HBIA) program, which provides vital health coverage for Illinois immigrants ages 42-64, will be paused effective July 1. The notice also permits co-pays and reduced reimbursements to hospitals. As a member of the Healthy Illinois Campaign and an organization committed to health justice, Health & Medicine strongly opposes this decision and calls on Governor J.B. Pritzker to reverse this immediately. In 2017, Governor Pritzker said on his campaign website that he planned to “work with health experts and leaders across the state to expand health coverage for all Illinoisans.” The HBIA and the Health Benefits for Immigrant Seniors (HBIS) programs, both implemented under Governor Pritzker, have been significant in expanding access to health care for Illinoisans.“Just when these programs ought to be serving as a national model and at the very moment when he ought to be working to expand these programs to try to cover Illinois’ remaining uninsured residents, Governor Pritzker is reneging on his promise by weakening protections, increasing costs to enrollees, and pausing enrollment. This is bad, unjust public policy,” said Wesley Epplin, Health & Medicine’s policy director.  On his current website, Governor Pritzker claims that he “believes that health care is a right, not a privilege, and as Governor he has been fighting to expand access to care, improve the quality of care available, and make it more affordable.” Yet the choice to cap enrollment, include co-pays, and reduce hospital reimbursement runs counter to this. Friday’s public notice actively erects barriers to accessing quality health care. When people put off seeking care, their health problems worsen, and they end up needing more expensive, complicated medical care.

“The bottom line is, Governor Pritzker and the Illinois General Assembly should not be singling out immigrants and cutting their health care programs as a faulty attempt to solve our state’s budget challenges. These successful programs ought to be expanded to make Illinois a more humane, just, and better state. Illinois has the fifth biggest economy in the US, so there’s plenty of economic activity to support all of our budget priorities, including robust health programs. But that’s only possible if officials set up a modern, progressive tax system. Governor Pritzker and the General Assembly need to figure this out now,” Epplin added.

Health & Medicine joins a chorus of other organizations and elected officials in demanding that Governor Pritzker reverse this decision and resume acting as a pro-immigrant, pro-public health governor. People who think they may qualify for health coverage under HBIA can apply immediately via

About Health & Medicine Policy Research GroupHealth & Medicine Policy Research Group (Health & Medicine) is an independent policy center that conducts research, educates, and collaborates with other groups to advocate policies and impact health systems to improve the health status of all people.Our mission is to build power and momentum for social justice and health equity in Illinois.

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