(The Center Square) – Legislation that ensures Medicaid coverage for Illinois residents ages 42 and older regardless of immigration status has passed through the General Assembly.
House Bill 4343 expands Medicaid coverage. A Senate amendment says that expansion includes "permitting the Department of Healthcare and Family Services to provide medical services to noncitizens 42 years of age through 54 years of age."
Senate sponsor, state Sen. Ann Gillespie, D-Arlington Heights, said during debate in the Senate Saturday morning the measure is about helping the people of Illinois.
"It is meeting the goal of expanding health-care coverage, particularly after and during the pandemic," Gillespie said. "We are trying to make sure we are taking care of as many people as we can."
The bill is intended to provide Medicaid services to those without a stable income, those without any employment income, and undocumented immigrants.
Republican lawmakers criticized the measure. State Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Cherry Valley, said he is against the legislation due to legal citizens being denied health care coverage in the past.
"We have told so many other groups that they cannot get coverage, but yet in turn we are going to expand this coverage for undocumenteds, so I urge a 'no' vote from this side for multiple reasons," Syverson said before the Senate vote.
Another reason Syverson said he's opposed is the policy was not the product of a bipartisan working group.
"We had a bipartisan group the last three months, getting up at seven o'clock for these meetings with the agreement that all Medicaid expansions and increases were going to be working through this group and then you turn around and change the bill," Syverson said.
Gillespie disputed those claims, saying the goal was to work together.
"You know the base of House Bill 4343 was heard in Health Committee and as I mentioned it was the product of the work of the health care coverage expansion so that was the goal for a big part of this bill," Gillespie said.
The bill passed in the House in early March, was amended in the Senate Saturday morning and concurred by the House later in the morning Saturday before the legislature adjourned. It can now be sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
In 2020, Illinois approved expanding Medicaid expansion to seniors who aren't legal U.S. citizens.