I am the chief executive officer of Circle Family Health Care Network, a 501 (c) not-for-profit community health center serving the underserved population on Chicago’s West Side. We provide primary care and mental health services to many people who are not insured.

When the Illinois General Assembly reconvened in Springfield on Jan. 3, several issues were on its “to do” lists. But saying “yes” on HB6253, which extends Medicaid coverage to those low income Illinoisans “newly eligible” under the federal Affordable Care Act, should be an easy vote. HB6253, which as of this writing had been referred to the Rules Committee, makes all low-income adults, aged 19 to 65, eligible for Illinois Medicaid starting January, 2014.

The federal Affordable Care Act offer states the opportunity to fill in this gap in Medicaid coverage, making it a program for all uninsured low-income adults earning less than $15,400 per year (for an individual). Approximately 342,000 Illinois residents would be eligible for coverage. About 60 percent of them are working, but in low-wage or part-time jobs that do not provide health insurance. The federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost through 2016 and after that the state will pay no more than 10 percent of the cost.

United Power for Action and Justice — a coalition of 40 churches, synagogues, mosques, health centers, and non-profits — urged all Illinois General Assembly members to vote yes on HB6253. It’s good for all, but especially for people with low income and uninsured. With Medicaid coverage, they will have access to ongoing preventive, acute, and chronic care and a primary care doctor. They won’t put off health problems and end up very sick in emergency rooms and hospitals. They will be able to live healthier, longer, happier, and more productive lives.

Having Medicaid coverage will give them access to ongoing comprehensive primary care and a medical home. The inappropriate use of emergency rooms will be reduced, resulting in major cost savings. People will enjoy healthier, more productive lives and become productive citizens.

Andre Hines
United Power for Action and Justice