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Illinois House to debate bill giving noncitizens Medicaid benefits


Saturday, May 23, 2020  |  Article  |  By Greg Bishop | The Center Square

Budget--State (8) , Medicaid, Managed Care

(The Center Square) – A rushed budget implementation bill for the coming fiscal year up for debate in the House on Friday would enable the transfer of federal COVID-19 relief funds for local governments and expand Medicaid to people who are not U.S. citizens.

An amendment to Senate Bill 1805 that surfaced Friday shows the measure expands Medicaid coverage to people who aren't U.S. citizens who would be eligible for the benefit if it weren’t for immigration status. A legislative analysis did not say how much that would cost taxpayers.

House Floor Amendment 2 to Senate Bill 1805 says “the Department of Healthcare and Family Services may provide medical assistance … to noncitizens over the age of 65 years of age who are not eligible for medical assistance … due to their not meeting the otherwise applicable provisions … whose income is at or below 100 percent of the federal poverty level.”

There also wasn’t a cost analysis for the increased thresholds of energy and heating assistance. The measure qualifies households earning no more than 200 percent of the federal poverty line to get Emergency Assistance Program benefits. That’s up from 150 percent of the federal poverty line. The threshold to qualify for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program would also be increased from 150 to 200 percent.

The Budget Implementation Bill, or BIMP, also creates several funds to deal with federal aid during the COVID-19 crisis. A recent report said Illinois is withholding $4.9 billion in federal CARES Act funding from local governments, especially in rural areas. Gov. J.B. Pritzker said there needed to be enabling legislation to direct those funds.

The BIMP creates the State Coronavirus Urgent Remediation Emergency, or CURE Fund and the Local CARE Fund to facilitate those funds.

It also says the funding to local governments would be proportional to their population. The five counties that got federal CARES funding directly would be ineligible.

Local governments could use the money for any expenses incurred because of COVID-19 that weren’t included in budgets approved for local government annual budgets and any COVID-related expenditure for the rest of the calendar year.

The BIMP also would create the Coronavirus Business Interruption Grant, or BIG Program, a pandemic-related stability payment for healthcare providers.

The measure is up for consideration this afternoon in the House and would still need Senate approval.