Illinois immigrant communities say NOW is the time to end medical debt
Fri Feb 24 2023
This legislative session, Representative Dagmara Avelar introduced HB2719, Protect Illinoisans from Unfair Medical Debt, a proposal to reduce and prevent future medical debt for uninsured Illinoisans.This proposal would require hospitals to screen uninsured patients for eligible healthcare coverage and assist patients in applying for them.
“Healthcare is a human right for all and a key tenet of economic justice. Through programs like All Kids and Health Benefits for Immigrant Seniors and Adults, Illinois has made great progress towards ensuring coverage for all residents regardless of income or immigration status,” said Luvia Quiñones, Senior Director of Health Policy at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR). “Unfortunately, over a quarter-million Illinois residents remain uninsured, and thousands of uninsured Illinoisans who are Medicaid eligible end up forgoing care out of fear of high hospital bills despite having a health coverage option available to them. Additionally, existing medical debt disproportionately burdens Black and Latino residents in Illinois and nationwide.”
“This is just the first step in protecting community members from unfair billing practices,” said Lawrence Benito, Executive Director of ICIRR. “Our communities have fought for healthcare coverage expansions and have won several victories along the way. Now, it’s time for hospitals to assist in the enrollment of all healthcare coverage options available to thousands of people. That’s why HB2719 is so important for African American and immigrant communities, and why it is necessary to pass it this session. As much as we talk about reducing health disparities in communities of color, it is the screening and assistance requirements in this bill that will truly close the gaps that prevent uninsured Illinoisans from receiving the care they need.”
Protect Illinoisans from Unfair Medical Debt, HB2719, will:
Prevent medical debt for all uninsured patients;
Assist uninsured patients with enrollment in financial assistance (charity care) and health insurance coverage;
Improve overall health outcomes for uninsured individuals through an economic equity lens;
Empower patients to seek relief from debts if hospitals fail to screen for coverage eligibility;
Reimburse hospitals for patient services that otherwise would not be reimbursed.
Concluded Quiñones: “We look forward to working with our lead sponsors Representative Dagmara Avelar and Senator Robert Peters, as well as all members of the General Assembly, to continue building on Illinois’ history as a welcoming state by passing this piece of pro-immigrant policy and ending medical debt for all.”
The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights is a statewide coalition of more than 100 organizations dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees to full and equal participation in the civic, cultural, social, and political life of our diverse society.