In 2020, the Healthy Illinois Campaign made history by getting the Health Benefits for Immigrant Seniors (HBIS) legislation passed which established healthcare coverage for low-income Illinois seniors, ages 65+ regardless of immigration status. Through this initiative, Illinois became the first state in the country to ensure healthcare access for those shut out of Federally-funded Medicaid and Medicare programs. In 2021, Healthy Illinois made history yet again by passing the Health Benefits for Immigrant Adults legislation which then allowed those 42 and older with low-income, regardless of immigration status, to receive healthcare coverage. Southwest Organizing Project led many initiatives and are at the forefront of the fight along with many of their members and partner organizations, so when those wins were put in jeopardy, they quickly answered the call to fight once again.
On June 16th, 2023, 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. One of the largest parts about HBIA and HBIS was that this Medicaid-like health insurance provided access to healthcare coverage with $0 premiums and $0 co-payments. With the changes that have been made, no new applicants of HBIA or HBIS will be accepted and those who are currently covered by these programs will have $250 co-pays for inpatient hospitalization, $100 co-pays for emergency room visits and will be charged 10% of the department rate for hospital or ambulatory surgical treatment center outpatient services.
Although these prices may not seem steep to families that are better off, to community members living day to day on low-income provided by the companies they work for, this can be the difference between going without food, clothes, or paying other bills. With only a few days' notice, hundreds of community members rallied downtown at the Daley Plaza to let their concerns and demands reverberate through the bustling pavilion and even event caught the attention and support of many government officials as well. Representative Dagmara Avelar, Representative Lilian Jimenez, Senator Karina Villa, Alderperson Rosanna Rodriguez and Commissioner Alma Anaya each shared a piece on why they will continue to support the HBIA and HBIS programs in their original form.
Though this may have dealt a heavy blow to what many would have called an amazing win for all individuals seeking affordable healthcare, SWOP is determined to continue fighting for what is right for the community!