Lawmakers to vote on adding DACA, work visa immigrants to publicly-funded Medicaid

SPRINGFIELD (Illinois News Network) — The sponsor of legislation that would allow some immigrants in Illinois to enroll in Medicaid said lawmakers will vote on the matter later this spring.

The bill would allow legal immigrants in Illinois via the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and on permanent work visas, known as I-766 Employment Authorization Documentation, to enroll in the state’s Medicaid program that now accounts for more than a quarter of state spending and serves more than three million people. Medicaid spending totaled about $19.3 billion in state and federal funds in 2016.

Sponsor Delia Ramirez said most of these immigrants are taxpayers in the country legally who would otherwise be eligible for Medicaid. This law would automatically add people to Medicaid instead of having them individually apply.

Related: House passes measure to give tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants, transgender students

“Sixty percent of DACA recipients are already insured,” she said. “We’re looking at people who are already paying taxes, people that are already either DACA recipients or legal permanent residents who are already eligible for Medicaid.”

There were about 79,000 DACA recipients in Illinois as of 2016, according to U.S. Census data. The number of I-766 holders residing in Illinois is unclear because the classification often overlaps with other residency permissions. After five years, those residents would no longer qualify under this bill, Ramirez said.

State Rep. Will Guzzardi said the change would actually lower medical costs because the people who would be on Medicaid are now forced to go to emergency rooms, where the cost of care is much more expensive.

“When low-income people don’t have health insurance they cost the system way, way more because they show up in the emergency room and they have to get much more serious interventions,” he said.

Ramirez said they plan to call the bill for consideration when lawmakers come back from spring break.

Related: Illinois Senate moves to lower mandatory school age

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