House Republicans call for a moratorium, audit of Illinois’ billion-dollar health benefits program for undocumented immigrants. Illinois House Republican leaders are calling for a moratorium on expansion and a State audit of Illinois’ billion-dollar health benefits program for undocumented immigrants.
At a Capitol press conference Thursday, Deputy Republican Leaders Norine Hammond and Ryan Spain, along with Assistant Republican Leader C.D. Davidsmeyer, highlighted a bombshell State report detailing the massive cost and enrollment expansions of Illinois’ health benefits program for undocumented immigrants.
Hammond, who serves as chief budgeteer for the House Republican Caucus, laid out in detail the dramatic growth in undocumented immigrant participation, which will require nearly a billion dollars in general revenue funds to support the program in Fiscal Year 2024.
“In FY24, Illinois’ program of health benefits for undocumented immigrants is estimated to cost $990 million, which is a $768 million increase (346%) over FY23,” Rep. Hammond said. “Undocumented immigrants are ineligible for any federal Medicaid match, resulting in State GRF being used to pay for the entirety of services provided. These ballooning enrollments and costs are unsustainable and could lead to the loss of funding and services for Illinois’ most vulnerable citizens.”
A recent report from the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) shows that HFS and its contracted actuarial firm, Milliman, repeatedly underestimated actual enrollees and costs.
FY24 estimates now show growth in healthcare benefits coverage for eligible undocumented immigrants totaling 108,400 over original FY23 estimates, and enrollees totaling 31,500 over original FY23 estimates, a 202% and 94% increase respectively.
“Year after year, we saw the majority party continue to double down on these expansions, which are not eligible for federal matching funds. The Medicaid program in the State of Illinois is our biggest area of spending,” said Deputy House Republican Leader Ryan Spain in discussing House Resolution 220, which he filed to audit and pause new enrollees in the program. “This billion dollar hole, which is just the beginning, requires the General Assembly to exercise fiscal responsibility in both the short-term and long-term to ensure state budget sustainability.”
The additional Medicaid pressure for these expansions is happening at the same time the State is expected to lose $760 million in additional federal funding through the enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Program (FMAP) that was provided to states during the pandemic.
Several important State programs are still drastically underfunded and could greatly benefit from the $990 million in GRF that would go to HFS to continue to provide medical services to undocumented immigrants.
Assistant Republican Leader C.D. Davidsmeyer discussed the process by which these expansions of health benefits to undocumented immigrants were enacted into law and the absolute lack of accountability and transparency for this program.
“During the 2020 pandemic-shortened House session, Democrats slipped health benefits for undocumented immigrant seniors into the FY21 Budget Implementation (BIMP) bill. This new benefit was included in the BIMP at the last minute, without a committee hearing, public input, or debate. We had virtually no time to review the massive BIMP and budget bills that were passed at the end of that special session,” said Rep. Davidsmeyer.
“In 2021, Democrats again slipped expanded health benefits for undocumented immigrants for ages 55-64 into the FY22 BIMP bill. This was again included at the last minute, with no committee hearing and almost no time to debate the bill.
“Last year, Democrats blew up an agreed Medicaid Omnibus bill by yet again adding a last-minute expansion of health benefits for undocumented immigrants for ages 42-54 at the end of session. Zero transparency, zero accountability, zero public input.”
Illinois Democrats recently filed House Bill 1570, which would complete the expansion of health benefits for undocumented immigrants by adding ages 19-41 to the program. HB 1570 has not been debated and no stand-alone vote has been taken on this benefit expansion. Davidsmeyer suggested that if recent history is any guide, the Democrats will again, for the fourth time, add this expansion to the upcoming FY24 BIMP bill or some other massive omnibus bill at the end of the General Assembly’s spring session.
Illinois borrows from Wall Street. Illinois is selling $2.45 billion in general obligation (GO) bonds in an environment of rising global interest rates. The bonds are being sold in four batches, sized as $1.1 billion, $1.0 billion, $200 million, and $150 million, with different terms and maturity dates.
The budget proposed by Gov. JB Pritzker for FY24 includes $46.5 billion in capital appropriations, which far exceeds available cash flow. In addition, the Pritzker administration has created a wholly new $400 million Large Business Attraction Fund. This Fund is designed to achieve one-time incentive enhancement goals, especially with respect to so-called “megaprojects.” If and when a megaproject deal is announced, the deal announcement will claim that the deal will pay for itself over time, but the State will need up-front money right now.
The “Investor Presentation” drafted by the State of Illinois’ underwriters, with the assistance of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB), includes a full section, “Pension Update,” on Illinois’ current pension situation. Illinois’ five State-managed pension systems continue to be severely underfunded with respect to long-term obligations. The five systems currently assume a rate of return on their existing assets of between 6.50% and 7.00, with a weighted average of 6.84%. Should returns drop below this number, the unfunded pension gap of these five systems would further increase. Illinois’ pension systems currently post an unfunded liability number of more than $100 billion. As of the end of FY22, the five systems were 44.1% funded.
Firefighters join list of Illinois first responders who paid the ultimate price in 2023. Two Chicago firefighters died in the line of duty in the second week of April. Jermaine Pelt, age 49, died on Tuesday, April 11, while facing a house fire in Chicago’s West Pullman neighborhood on the city’s Far South Side. On Wednesday, April 12, a separate blaze broke out in a condominium high rise on Chicago’s Near North Side. Those who fought the fire were told it was on the building’s 27th floor. Fire Lt. Jan Tchoryk, age 55, gave his life in the skyscraper inferno.
The Illinois House paid tribute to the fallen first responders in their session in Springfield on Tuesday, April 18. The Illinois Fallen Firefighters Memorial, a combination sculpture and gathering place, commemorates all Illinois firefighters, but especially those who have given their lives in the line of duty. The Memorial is the site for the annual Firefighter Medal of Honor Ceremony and Memorial Service. The ceremony and Memorial Service will be held this year on Thursday, May 9, at 10 a.m.
Emerging Women Leaders recognized by trailblazers. On Tuesday, Illinois House Republicans hosted the 2023 Emerging Women Leaders Recognition Event. Nearly 50 women from across the state of Illinois were honored at this event. All of the honorees were invited by their respective State Representatives for their achievements as leaders in their careers and communities.
The event kicked off with a brunch that was highlighted by a keynote address delivered by Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lisa Holder White, the first black woman to serve on the state’s high court. Justice Holder White discussed the obstacles she and many other women face when working to achieve positions of leadership. She ended her speech with a strong message of empowerment and the need to make space for women in government.
Following the brunch, the honorees attended a listening session hosted by the first female Minority Leader in the Illinois House of Representatives, Leader Tony McCombie, and the first black Lieutenant Governor in state history, Juliana Stratton. Both women spoke in depth about the connection they share as women in politics, even though they sit on opposite sides of the aisle. Together they asked questions about the challenges the honorees faced as women and encouraged suggestions on how Illinois government can help.
The honorees were then guided to the House Speaker’s Gallery where they watched the day’s legislative session in the Illinois House of Representatives. Leader Tony McCombie took a moment to recognize the guests from the House floor, commending their achievements as Emerging Women Leaders.
This event concluded with a tour of the Capitol, led by the first female Architect of the Illinois Capitol, Andrea Aggertt.
“We were privileged to host an extraordinary group of women from every corner of Illinois who are truly making a positive impact in their communities,” said Leader McCombie. “I would like to thank each of them for sharing their stories with us and for their dedication toward improving the quality of life for women and families in this state we are proud to call home.”
Leader McCombie and the Illinois House Republicans plan to make the Emerging Women Leaders Recognition an annual event, building on the success of the first such event hosted in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the recognition to be postponed from 2020-2022.