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Illinois Provides Critical Health Coverage to Low-Income Uninsured Seniors Regardless of Immigration Status

For Immediate Release:

May 23, 2020


Graciela Guzman


Healthy Illinois Campaign


Ambar Mentor-Truppa

Vice President of Communications

Shriver Center on Poverty Law


A First in the Nation: Illinois Provides Critical Health Coverage to Low-Income Uninsured Seniors Regardless of Immigration Status

(Chicago, IL) – In a monumental step towards ensuring access to affordable and comprehensive health care for all, the Illinois General Assembly passed a FY 2021 budget late Friday night that funds comprehensive health coverage for immigrant seniors made especially vulnerable by the COVID-19 crisis–an effort organized by the Healthy Illinois Campaign, a coalition of over 70 organizations across diverse sectors committed to removing barriers to quality health care for all Illinoisians. The allocation, which includes language from HB 4891 (Ramirez) /SB 3703 (Aquino), the Healthy Illinois For All bill, will create a pathway to health coverage for all low-income Illinois residents aged 65 and older, with household incomes of up to 100% FPL ($12,760 for an individual) regardless of their immigration status. In doing so, Illinois leads the nation by becoming the first state to provide Medicaid-like coverage to undocumented seniors, and takes a critical first step towards expanding health care coverage to all uninsured undocumented Illinoisans.

The COVID-19 public health crisis has proven devastating for our nation’s senior population, and undocumented seniors are made especially vulnerable due to the fact that their immigration status makes them ineligible for Medicaid, Medicare, or coverage under the Affordable Care Act despite paying state and local taxes. In Illinois alone, an estimated 400 seniors aged 65 and over who would otherwise be income-eligible for Medicaid aren’t able to receive coverage simply because of their status. This budget allocation is in response to the fact that an uninsured low-income COVID-19 positive senior will endure a much more severe course of COVID-19, incurring expensive medical bills.

COVID-19 has shown that our public health is interdependent: our seniors need meaningful access to healthcare to safeguard the health of ALL Illinoisans, both during this pandemic and future expected outbreaks. This vital step will ensure that Illinois emerges stronger from this crisis by lowering Illinois’s uninsured rate, reducing health care providers’ uncompensated care, and creating a more equitable healthcare system for all Illinoisans.

This effort was led in the General Assembly by Rep. Delia Ramirez, Rep. Lisa Hernandez, Sen. Omar Aquino and the entire Illinois Latino Legislative Caucus, all of whom responded swiftly and responsibly to blunt the continued spread of COVID-19 and help mitigate the negative economic effects including to health care providers. The Healthy Illinois Campaign will continue to work towards the Governor’s vision of expanding access to affordable, comprehensive health coverage in Illinois. We know that there is an urgent and critical need for uninsured, low-income undocumented seniors to be prioritized and have the opportunity to age with dignity and respect.

Responses from the Healthy Illinois Campaign’s Legislative Leaders in the Illinois General Assembly

Healthcare access is a fundamental right that should be guaranteed to all regardless of immigration status. This pandemic has shown the ways public health binds us all together and that denying healthcare to some hurts us all. I am proud that we have taken this important first step to care for our most vulnerable and will continue to work towards universal healthcare for all.” Illinois State Representative Delia Ramirez (D-4), House bill sponsor and chief champion of Healthy Illinois For All bill

This unprecedented crisis necessitates unity and empathy, and a recognition that everyone deserves meaningful access to health care. Providing health coverage to our low-income uninsured seniors is just the start! I will continue to stand and fight with the immigrant community until all uninsured are covered.” Illinois State Representative Lisa Hernandez (D-24), Assistant Majority Leader, Co-Chair of the Illinois Latino Legislative Caucus

In the face of  everything that is going on in our nation’s politics, Illinois must stand up and offer itself as a beacon of hope to those communities being dehumanized on a daily basis. We must guarantee human rights to all people, especially health care. We must guarantee health care to all people, especially those who are systematically denied access to it. Low-income and immigrant communities must have access to the services that they pay into and deserve as human beings.” Illinois State Senator Omar Aquino (D-2), Senate bill sponsor, Majority Caucus Whip, and Co-Chair of the Illinois Latino Legislative Caucus

Responses from Healthy Illinois Steering Committee Members:

“Today’s vote reinforces the principle made clear in the Assembly floor  — health care is a human right. We applaud the Illinois Latino Legislative Caucus for their leadership in ensuring health care coverage for immigrant families.  We are heartened by this critical step to uplift the health of vulnerable community members: the urgency is critical for undocumented seniors, who deserve to age with dignity and respect. We now turn to our legislators and Governor to continue building upon this critical opportunity towards comprehensive health coverage for the immigrant communities and Illinoisians all across our state.”  Carmen Velasquez, Founder and retired Executive Director of Alivio Medical Center; Founder, Healthy Illinois Campaign

“I am pleased that Governor Priztker and members of the Illinois General Assembly acknowledge the importance in providing health coverage for all.  Every Illinoisian should have the right to health care, regardless of immigration status.  As opposed to a federal Administration that seeks to take away health care, Illinois is showing a path to health for all, recognizing that our health is interconnected and we all benefit when everyone has access to quality, affordable and comprehensive coverage. These low-income seniors have contributed a lifetime of work and taxes into Illinois, and should have access to the same primary and preventive care, which helps make the health system stronger for everyone.” Esther Corpuz, CEO, Alivio Medical Center

TRP applauds the Latino Caucus for expanding healthcare coverage to immigrant seniors.  Healthcare is a human right.  Our current public health crisis demonstrated that protecting the most vulnerable protects all of us. Illinois continues to lead becoming the first state in the nation to provide immigrant seniors with an option for healthcare coverage ensuring they can receive the lifesaving care they need.”  Eréndira Rendón, Vice President of Immigrant Advocacy & Defense Project, The Resurrection Project (TRP)

Illinois leaders have taken a critical first step in protecting a population vulnerable to COVID-19 while also beginning to dismantle a long-standing structural inequity. We cannot emerge stronger from this crisis without protecting the health of our low-income uninsured residents. We look forward to continuing this work with Illinois leaders to provide comprehensive health coverage to the remaining uninsured adults—so that everyone can have this basic human right.”  John Bouman, Shriver Center on Poverty Law, President

“The strong support shown in the General Assembly proves that Illinois is ready to take historic steps this year to remove barriers to care and coverage for all Illinoisians. Our healthcare system works better when everyone is covered. Expanding access to Medicaid will not just positively impact the individuals newly covered, but their families, our communities, and the health system on which we all rely.” Graciela Guzman, Campaign Director, Healthy Illinois Campaign

This pandemic amplified the urgency of what we have been fighting for at Healthy Illinois. A heartfelt thanks to our Legislators of the passage of HB4891/SB3703.  This is only the beginning, there is so much more to be done for our families in Illinois.  Thank you again for your leadership.”  Imelda Salazar, Organizer, The Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP)

“Expanding Medicaid for undocumented seniors is a good first step and we will continue fighting until everyone in Illinois is covered!”  Luvia Quiñones, Health Policy Director, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR)

We are delighted to see this health coverage for seniors. It is very important at this stage of their lives, that our people do not worry about paying for health coverage. They cannot work long and heavy hours and their wages are very low. Thanks to everyone for their support of this great proposal for health coverage for older adults. They deserve a dignified and healthy old age. Health is a human right. Let’s make it count. We will continue to fight for all those who do not yet have health insurance so that everyone living in Illinois is covered regardless of their immigration status.” Ilda Hernandez, Community Health Worker, Enlace Chicago; Network Coordinator, PAES (a local network of Promotores de Salud)

“For over 100 years, Sinai Health System has provided care for everyone. We are very proud to know that Illinois will be continuing to make sure that some of our most vulnerable people and communities will have healthcare that they certainly deserve.  This will keep all of us healthier and more safe.” Karen Teitelbaum, CEO and President, Sinai Health System

Now more than ever, we need to ensure that everyone has access to affordable health coverage. Cook County Health applauds legislators for taking this important first step, and is committed to working towards a future where ALL Illinois residents, regardless of immigration status, income, or background have equitable access to high-quality, comprehensive health care.” Debra D. Carey, Interim CEO, Cook County Health

Community health centers were founded to ensure access to care in underserved communities. For more than fifty years, our member organizations have cared for everyone who walks through the door regardless of insurance coverage, ability to pay, or immigration status. Today, as Illinois becomes the first state in the nation to expand medical assistance to undocumented seniors, we stand with Healthy Illinois in support of the belief that health care is a right, not a privilege.”  Jordan Powell, CEO and President, Illinois Primary Health Care Association.

Make no mistake, access to comprehensive health care is a basic human right that should be afforded to all Illinoisans, especially the most vulnerable in our communities. COVID-19 has shone a bright light on the vast health disparities and outcomes experienced by the uninsured, our Black, Latinx and Indigenous communities, in addition to people living with or vulnerable to HIV. We are elated that Illinois policymakers have agreed to provide healthcare coverage to low-income, uninsured seniors ages 65 and older.  While this is certainly a positive first step in the right direction, our advocacy will not waver or falter until all Illinoisans are provided the healthcare coverage they deserve and structural inequalities are addressed that besiege the most vulnerable among us. We look forward to continued discussions with Illinois legislators to reach that desired end.” Timothy Jackson, Director of Government Relations, AIDS Foundation Chicago

At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has put a bright spotlight on the health inequities faced by communities of color, it is so encouraging that the Illinois General Assembly took the courageous step to extend health coverage to Illinois seniors regardless of immigration status. This initiative will save lives and shows a path forward to a more equitable health care system on the other side of this pandemic.” Dan Rabbitt, Senior Project Manager – Health Policy, Heartland Alliance

Health care expansions save lives, and this expansion is no exception. Healthy Illinois for All creates a pathway to coverage for older adults in Illinois, and families will be healthier for it. EverThrive Illinois now urges the General Assembly to turn their attention to undocumented pregnant and postpartum Illinoisans. To meaningfully address the maternal mortality crisis in Illinois, it is important that every birth parent has quality coverage during the 12-month postpartum period. Let’s build upon the success of the Healthy Illinois for All and make a plan to ensure postpartum coverage for every birth parent in Illinois.” Chi Chi Okwu, Executive Director, EverThrive Illinois

Healthy Illinois looks forward to continuing this work to provide comprehensive health coverage to the remaining uninsured adults—so that everyone can have this basic human right.


The Healthy Illinois Campaign began in 2016 when immigrant rights activists, health care advocates, and community members came together to call for expanding health care to all Illinoisans, regardless of immigration status.  The coalition boasts membership from over 70 organizations across Illinois representing immigrants, children, health care consumers, patients, providers, policy experts, academics and policymakers committed to improving access and removing barriers to quality health care for all Illinoisians. Focusing on raising immigrant, children and consumer voices, the coalition engages in legislative, grassroots and media advocacy to change state and federal policy so that all Illinoisians have access to the health care they need and deserve. Find out more at