Fact Check: Lower-State Senator Wrong About Medicaid Eligibility For Illinois Undocumented Immigrants


Last year, amid the global COVID-19 crisis, Illinois became the first state to extend state-funded health care to all low-income immigrant seniors, including those living illegally. in the country.

In a recent WJPF radio interview, State Senator Terri Bryant of Murphysboro brought up the program after a caller asked how many “illegal alien” taxpayers in Illinois “are now responsible” for.

Bryant used the question to criticize Illinois for being too lenient on illegal immigration, suggesting without evidence that state policies are somehow tied to violent crime in Chicago and repeating a constantly refuted claim that the city ​​would have the strictest gun laws in the country.

She also targeted the state to extend health care coverage to undocumented immigrants, suggesting that those above a certain age are now eligible for health care benefits that are not available to citizens:

“In this budget, we are now authorizing Medicaid for undocumented people 55 and over,” the Republican said. “So last year – it seemed like it had been very quiet, I don’t know why more people weren’t talking about it – it was 65 and over. This year they slipped 55 and over. So you can be 55 in that state and be a citizen and not eligible for Medicaid. But if you are an undocumented immigrant and are 55 or older, you are eligible for Medicaid.

We were curious what Bryant was talking about when she said being undocumented and being 55 or older would make someone eligible for Medicaid benefits in Illinois. After all, Medicaid is a needs-based program, which means that only applicants who meet certain income requirements are eligible.

We called Bryant’s office to tell him about the basis of his claim, but had no response.

Applicants must meet the same income criteria as citizens, legal residents

Undocumented migrants have limited access to health care, with federal law preventing them from participating in Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) markets.

In addition to being the first state to offer coverage to low-income seniors whose immigration status disqualifies them from federal programs, Illinois is one of six states to fund its own program to cover eligible children. , regardless of their immigration status. California, one of the other states that covers minors, expanded its program to include young adults in 2020 and last week approved a plan to cover low-income immigrants aged 50 and over from next year.

Illinois decided to create two programs to expand coverage for older immigrants excluded from federal programs. Last year, state lawmakers used the budget to create a program that provides non-citizens living at or below federal poverty level and aged 65 or older with access to certain Medicaid-type benefits. , regardless of their immigration status. The age and income requirements for this program mirror those of a version of Medicaid called Help for the Elderly, Blind, and Disabled, although the benefits for elderly immigrants are not as great.

Budget lawmakers and the governor this year approved the creation of a program that is expected to launch by the end of May next year, offering Medicaid-like benefits to non-citizens aged 55 to 64 who would be eligible for Medicaid without their immigration status.

Under Medicaid itself in Illinois, U.S. citizens and non-citizens with legal status 19 years of age and older are eligible for coverage if their income is 138% of the federal poverty line. That same income requirement applies to non-citizens who will be eligible for the state’s new program, according to Jane Longo, deputy director of new initiatives at the Illinois Department of Health and Family Services.

So, with the exception of immigrant status, an undocumented 55-year-old would need to meet the same criteria as a 55-year-old citizen to qualify for coverage in Illinois.

Bryant made a false comparison because there is no scenario in which American citizens would not qualify for Medicaid, as long as they are in the appropriate income range.

Our decision

Bryant said, “You can be 55 in this state and be a citizen and not eligible for Medicaid. But if you are an undocumented immigrant and are 55 or older, you are eligible for Medicaid.

It is a false comparison.

No US citizen would be excluded from Medicaid unless their income was too high to qualify. And Illinois plan beneficiaries who are in the United States illegally are also expected to fall below the same income restrictions.

We assess Bryant’s claim as false.

FALSE – The statement is not correct.

Click here to learn more about the six PolitiFact assessments and how we select which facts to check.


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