For the first time in the history of the United States, Illinois now offers medical coverage to people regardless of their immigration status. The campaign started back in 2014 with a coalition of 70+ organizations; SWOP being one of them. In 2020, the coalition fought for and won coverage for people 65 and up, and in 2021 they were able to win coverage for people 55 and up. As of July 1, 2022, coverage is now extended to people 42 years old and up. To be eligible, you must live in Illinois, be 42 years of age and be at or below the 100% federal level of poverty.
In this line of work, the number of people who apply is everything. The Healthy Illinois coalition wants to be able to show just how important resources such as health insurance coverage are for those who do not have it. The more people that apply, the more the coalition can show the reality of the situation, which is that there are thousands of families in need of healthcare. In our community, there are people who have to choose between seeing a doctor and paying the rent. This program will prevent people from ending up in the ER from medical issues that have been neglected because they could not pay for care. The newly insured will be able to get a lot more preventative care that can help them avoid pricey visits to the ER.
When asked about the necessity of the Healthy Illinois Coverage, Mayra Sarabia, a SWOP organizer and someone who has spent time informing, educating and assisting the coverage efforts had this to say. “Our community has a large undocumented population, and this will give the opportunity to people who cannot afford a visit to the doctor to apply for medical care and lead a healthier life. The hope we have and the goal we strive for is universal healthcare for all ages. There is a gap of ages that aren’t covered right now and we hope that we can someday make it to where everyone can get the coverage they need.”
As SWOP continues to expand this work, the hope is that sharing information about coverage and having the important conversation that there is no risk if eligible people apply, will get more community residents covered. People believe that this may affect their ability to obtain legal status in the future, but the Healthy Illinois Coverage will have no bearing on their eligibility to apply and receive citizenship in the future. SWOP wants to make sure that no one feels afraid to apply for medical coverage if they are eligible so they can prioritize their health.