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State accepting Medicaid enrollment for expanded group of undocumented immigrants, newer green card holders

In 2015, Medicaid spending topped $552 billion nationwide. People who receive both Medicaid and Medicare and people with disabilities account for more than half of Medicaid spending.
Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/Getty Images/iStockphoto
More than 5,300 immigrants in Illinois are already covered under the Health Benefits for Immigrant Adults program, according to a DHS spokeswoman. That figure includes 513 newly eligible adults under 55 who've signed up since July 1.

Illinois’ Department of Healthcare and Family Services is accepting Medicaid applications for low-income noncitizens as young as 42, who recently became eligible for the state’s expanded “Health Benefits for Immigrant Adults” program.

The program grew out of Illinois’ first-in-the-nation Health Benefits for Immigrant Seniors program, which debuted in late 2020. That program covers seniors aged 65 and over, while the program for non-senior adults began covering low-income noncitizens aged 55 and over earlier this year.

The latest expansion, which covers adults aged 42 through 54, has the same low-income eligibility thresholds as those covered by Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act: a maximum annual income of $18,754 for an individual or $25,268 in combined income for a two-person household.

More than 5,300 immigrants in Illinois are already covered under the Health Benefits for Immigrant Adults program, according to a DHS spokeswoman. That figure includes 513 newly eligible adults under 55 who've signed up since July 1.

Illinois also became the first state to offer Medicaid coverage for all children regardless of immigration status in the mid-2000s.

Covering undocumented immigrant adults and green card holders who’ve been in the U.S. for fewer than five years will cost an estimated $68 million annually. And since federal Medicaid rules exclude both undocumented immigrants and permanent residents with fewer than five years on their record, it’s all on the state’s dime.

Lowering the minimum age for Medicaid coverage was included in a massive piece of Medicaid-related legislation pushed through the Democratically controlled General Assembly earlier this year. With Gov. JB Pritzker’s signature, the new law also sought to resolve decades-old fights over Medicaid reimbursement to nursing homes, which have been under the state’s microscope since the onset of COVID-19, which brought heavy death tolls from the virus in certain facilities.

The expanded coverage to noncitizens aged 42 and over began earlier this month when Illinois’ new fiscal year began.

Medicaid coverage under Illinois’ Health Benefits for Immigrant Adults program includes doctor and hospital visits, lab tests, prescription drugs, physical and occupational therapy, mental health services — including for substance abuse disorders — and dental and vision services.

Hannah covers state government and politics for NPR Illinois and Illinois Public Radio. She's been dedicated to the statehouse beat since interning at NPR Illinois in 2014, with subsequent stops at outlets including WILL-AM/FM, Law360, The Daily Line and a temporary stint at political blog Capitol Fax before returning to the station in 2020.
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