The decision comes as a result of rising costs that exceeded initial budget projections.
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s administration has announced the closure of enrollment for a state-funded health insurance program for immigrants under 65 who are residing in the country without legal permission
The move has faced criticism from Latino legislators and an immigrant healthcare advocacy group, who have labeled it as “immoral and fiscally short-sighted.”
Initially, Governor Pritzker‘s budget proposal in February allocated $220 million for the program. However, by May, cost projections for the upcoming year had surged to $1.1 billion due to higher-than-expected enrollment. To finalize the state’s $50.4 billion budget, Pritzker reached an agreement with the Democratic-controlled General Assembly, securing $550 million for the program and granting his administration tools to manage costs.
Starting from July 1, the new budget year, the changes will also introduce copayments for emergency room and inpatient services when federal matching funds are unavailable. Existing program participants will maintain their coverage. The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, responsible for program administration, referred to the changes as a “pause” in new enrollments, with the aim of resuming them as soon as financially feasible.
Latino legislators expressed disappointment with the decision, emphasizing its impact on all residents of Illinois
They called on currently eligible individuals to sign up for the program before enrollment closes next month. The program, established in 2020, initially provided Medicaid-style coverage to immigrants aged 65 and older without legal permission or with green cards who hadn’t fulfilled the five-year waiting period for traditional health insurance. It has since been expanded twice and now covers individuals aged 42 and older.
Advocates and Democratic lawmakers had sought further expansion during the recent legislative session, but concerns about the program’s affordability led to a temporary hold on those plans. A coalition supporting the program criticized Governor Pritzker’s changes, accusing him of turning his back on immigrant communities and aligning with anti-immigrant Republicans. The group argued that the decision would deny necessary medical treatment to individuals, including cancer care and mental health services.
While the Latino Caucus expressed disappointment with the program’s rollback, they vowed to continue their fight for healthcare coverage for all residents. Governor Pritzker’s office has not yet responded to the criticism.