Illinois House Republicans are calling for a pause on the expansion of a billion-dollar health benefits program for undocumented immigrants and for an audit of the program. The program, which has grown significantly in cost and enrollment in recent years, is projected to cost just shy of a billion dollars in state funds in the upcoming fiscal year, a 346% increase over the last fiscal year.
The recent expansions of the program have not been eligible for federal matching funds, meaning the money spent on the program has to come from Illinois taxpayers. Medicaid is already the state's biggest area of spending, and many other important state programs are underfunded and could benefit greatly from the hundreds of millions of dollars going to fund medical services for undocumented immigrants.
House Republicans have filed a resolution to call for an audit of the program and for a pause in new enrollees. According to them, the additional costs of the expansions come at a very bad time for Illinois, as the state is expected to lose $760 million in additional federal funding, which it previously received through a pandemic-era program.
The health benefits program for undocumented immigrants was created during the 2020 spring session, which was shortened by the pandemic. It was included in a last-minute budget bill with no committee hearing or public input. An expansion was slipped into the 2021 budget bill using the same process, and history repeated itself in 2022 with another last-minute expansion.
While advocates for the program argue that providing healthcare to undocumented immigrants is a moral obligation, opponents argue that the state's limited resources should be used to address the needs of all Illinois residents, particularly during times of economic hardship. The call for an audit of the program and a pause in new enrollees may bring some relief to taxpayers who are concerned about the program's impact on the state's budget.