Illinois is expanding Medicaid to bring in low-income people who otherwise wouldn’t have health insurance.

The law makes Medicaid available to adults with incomes below 138 percent of poverty – that’s $15,860 for an individual and $21,408 for a couple, starting next year, with enrollment to start Oct 1.

Prior to this law, Medicaid was available only to children, their parents or guardians, adults with disabilities and senior citizens. Low-income adults without children were not eligible.

An estimated 342,000 Illinoisans will be eligible under this law, roughly 60 percent of whom are employed. An effort will be made starting in October to get them enrolled.

One of the intended benefits of the law is that these individuals will be able to get medical care from a regular doctor, rather than in an emergency room. Not only are regular doctor visits cheaper than the emergency room per se, but people with regular access to health care tend to be healthier over time and require less care for severe illnesses, says State Sen. Health Steans (D-Chicago), one of the sponsors of the bill.

Who pays for this? For the first three years, it’s entirely federally funded, and beyond that, it’s 90 to 95 percent federal funds. The estimated benefit to Illinois will be $20 billion from 2014 to 2020.


(Copyright WBGZ Radio/