Illinois proposal requires hospitals to inform patients of coverage options

Illinois Capitol Building.
Illinois Capitol Building. Photo credit Getty Images

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) — An Illinois immigrant rights group said a recent report shows medical debt is having an increasing impact on poor, predominantly Black and Latino communities.

The report, by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), found that even though many low-income families are eligible for some health coverage or charity care, they don’t always know about it or apply.

“The lack of enrollment has harmful consequences, including delays in seeking care and waiting until health conditions become chronic or worse,” said Luvia Quiñones, the ICIRR’s senior health policy director.

That’s what happened to a woman identified as “Elizabeth,” a DACA recipient who avoided medical treatment until an infection put her in the hospital — where she mounted up huge bills.

“Despite my education and being fully bilingual, I did not know about financial aid options at my community’s hospital,” Elizabeth said. “No one during my visit informed me nor educated me on emergency Medicaid and charity care.”

Romeoville State Rep. Dagmara Avelar echoed the findings of the ICIRR study. Avelar said too many poor people are struggling with medical debt when there are programs that could help them.

“A huge number of Illinois — disproportionately Black and brown — are falling through the cracks and are incurring huge medical debt bills as we speak,” she said.

Chicago State Sen. Robert Peters said he and Avelar are sponsoring legislation that would require hospitals to screen patients for their eligibility for insurance coverage of charity care.

“When you think about what we’re proposing, it's pretty simple and basic: On the back end, you do the screening that you need to do to find the services and the programs for people who need it the most,” Peters said.

The fact that this is still a problem, he said, disgusts him.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images