The 21st Show

Healthcare for undocumented seniors


AP Photo/Michael Probst

To enroll in Medicaid, an individual must either be a U.S. citizen or a qualified non-citizen, such as a legal permanent resident. Each year, these requirements and the prohibitive out-of-pocket costs of healthcare for the uninsured keep countless immigrants from the care they need. In December 2020, Illinois lawmakers extended healthcare coverage to undocumented seniors aged 65 and older, making Illinois the first state in the nation to do so. Since then, close to 10,000 seniors across the state have enrolled, including undocumented individuals, those who hold green cards but have been in the U.S. for less than 5 years, and others who do not qualify for Medicaid coverage.

But the Medicaid-like program – called Health Benefits for Immigrant Adults – did not include funding for long-term care, like stays in nursing homes or rehabilitation clinics. On May 1, 2022, the program will expand to cover low-income immigrants ages 55 to 64, but without increasing coverage for long-term care, advocates worry that the expansion won’t be enough to meet the growing need for affordable and accessible healthcare in Illinois. 

The 21st was joined by one of the Illinois lawmakers leading the fight on this issue, plus the director of a campaign to increase access to healthcare in Illinois, and a journalist who's been following this issue.


Carlos Ballesteros

Reporter, Injustice Watch

State Rep. Delia Ramirez

4th District (D-Chicago)

Tovia Siegel

Director, Healthy Illinois Campaign



Prepared for web by Owen Henderson

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