Illinois health care debt disproportionately impacts black and Latino communities, proponents say


In May 2022, Alma survived a car accident that left him with several chronic injuries. But even after being released from a hospital near Little Village, the trauma continued, with constant phone calls from debt collectors accusing him of over $10,000 in medical bills arising from nearly a year of treatment he received for his injuries. I was asking for payment.

Alma, 69, who did not want to give her last name due to privacy concerns, cried for help at a virtual press conference Tuesday morning. Healthcare organizations proactively screen uninsured patients for public health insurance options and financial assistance before processing medical costs.

Alma was eligible for Medicaid benefits under Illinois’ expanded health coverage for seniors regardless of immigration status passed in 2020, but nearly a year has passed since her first hospitalization and treatment. I didn’t know about it until just a few months ago. Reimbursement for medical expenses retroactively.

“I can’t work right now. I continue to face health problems as a result of the accident. Only my family helps me pay, but I still have too much to pay. Please help me,” Alma said in Spanish. I said. She hid her face from the cameras in her tears.

This is a burden borne by countless illegal immigrants across the state, and last year the Tribune, in collaboration with Injustice Watch, published the series Aging in the Shadows: Confronting Illinois’ Aging Illinois. Spotlighting the Challenges We Face”.

This series looks at a society where the number of informal seniors aged 65 and over will increase by 1,300% over the next decade, most of which depend on food stamps, public housing, Medicare, Social Security, and more. It emphasizes blocked access to the program.they pay billions of dollars each year.

To protect Illinoisans from undue health care debt, advocates, political and community leaders on Tuesday said hospitals should help eligible patients apply for benefits or direct them to an organization that can help them through the process. Said it needs to be connected.

The group new report The report, released by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, the Legal Council for Health Justice, and the Community Catalyst, found that the state’s low-income Black, Latino, and immigrant families have disproportionate medical debt. , suggesting that one is suffering from a painful and more fragile disease. A recent survey by Chicago community health workers found that nearly 65% ​​of her 114 immigrants surveyed were concerned about how she would pay her hospital bills, according to a report. was shown.

Alma, who has been unable to work since the accident due to her injury and is currently insured, said on Tuesday she has been plagued with calls from debt collectors, feeling anxious and depressed as she tries to figure out how to pay everything. He said he was. .

Illinois has defended a bill to expand health care for immigrants and other at-risk people, but a 2021 study by the Illinois Department of Health and Family Services found more than 900,000 people Illinois residents do not have insurance. More than a third of these residents are covered by health insurance, and many others are covered by the hospital’s financial assistance programs and charity care. However, most are unable to access benefits due to technology or language barriers, leaving individual patients responsible for navigating the system to find out what they are eligible for and submitting an often complex application process. I am indebted.

Luvia Quiñones, senior director of health policy at ICIRR, said: Quiñones said each week from her community her partners that individuals seeking help with medical debt or who may have been eligible for compensation through state-funded programs or other financial assistance. She says she hears about

The bill would be a “common-sense solution to protect community members from unnecessary medical bills and ensure hospitals get paid through existing programs,” said Bolingbrook Democrat Doug Mara. Rep. Averer said. A member of the Illinois Latino Legislative Caucus, he advocates for the extension of publicly funded health care to everyone in the state, including those living in the state without a permit.

Elizabeth Cervantes said she and her immigrant family have medical debt and often avoid going to the doctor for fear of adding to the debt.

A few years ago, she fell ill with a viral infection and was frail, but “because I was afraid that I would not be able to receive my bills, I hesitated and extended my visit to the hospital for more than a week. ‘ said. Pay her,” said Cervantes.

Elizabeth Cervantes, Head of Organisation, Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project, Bolingbrook, March 21, 2023.

Cervantes is a DACA recipient who works for the Southwest Suburban Immigration Project in Bolingbrook and currently spends his time helping other immigrant families apply for available programs and financial assistance.

Cervantes said these programs could mean life or death for some people, who are often forced to choose between seeing a doctor and paying for basic necessities like rent and groceries. said.

At the national level, Assistance to apply for Medicaid from certain nonprofit hospitals was provided, including approximately 9% of adults with incomes below 100% of the federal poverty level ($13,590 per adult per year), Fewer than 6% of adults overdue their hospital bills. , according to research by the Kaiser Family Foundation. However, research in the report shows that about half of nonprofit hospitals across the country bill patients who would otherwise be entitled to charity care. increase.

Other states, such as Colorado, New Mexico, and Vermont, have recently introduced legislation to strengthen their medical debt protection laws. Colorado’s new law HB21-1198 health care Billing Requirements For Indient Patients ensures that hospital providers screen patients for public health coverage and discounted care, and holds individual patients accountable to hospitals. set enforceable standards Colorado law has added patient protections and improved language access requirements to reduce the number of Colorados sent to collections.

While the health care debt crisis is disproportionately affecting black and Latino communities, “this is a problem for working-class communities across the country,” said Senator Robert Peters. Chicago Democratic Party.

1 in 10 adults According to 2022, they owe a large amount of medical debt. Joint report by the Peterson Center on Healthcare and the Kaiser Family Foundation.Most are forced to cut Spending Buy groceries, clothing, and other household items, and use your savings to pay for medical bills. debt from friends and family additional debt.

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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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