A Step Towards Better Healthcare

Arjun Ramachandran

Rich Pedroncelli | Credit: Associated Press, 2019

When I was younger, my grandma would visit the U.S. quite often. While we were enthralled that she was visiting, it would present a significant conundrum for my parents.

She didn’t have healthcare.

My parents would pray that there were no health complications during her stay because they simply couldn’t afford the out-of-pocket payment. They would spend hours on various visitor insurance websites trying to find a good quote only to realize that the plan would still cost an extra $300 a month.

A price that increased by another $200 once she turned 80.

Insurance companies, such as IMG and Peterson, know that consumers have very few choices, so they hike up prices to unreasonable numbers. Since my grandma isn’t a U.S. citizen, she would end up leaving back to India at the end of her 6-month visa term.

Now, she is 83 years old and we want to bring her to the U.S. to live here permanently. Thanks to the Illinois HealthCare expansion, this is finally possible.

Earlier this year, the Illinois State Legislature included a provision in their budget that expanded Medicaid-like coverage to low-income immigrants 65 and older regardless of their immigration status, making Illinois the first state to fund this type of program. It goes into effect this coming December and the state expects between 400 and 2,000 people to enroll. This program will support a rapidly growing population of elderly immigrants that will increase elevenfold over the next 10 years. On top of that, the state will also pay retroactively for medical bills that occurred within the past year. In terms of immediate effects, it will help the increasing number of at-risk individuals who don’t have a legal immigration status during the pandemic. From street vendors to grocery store workers, this plan provides our front-line workers who put their lives on the line daily with better healthcare.

In 2017, Illinois residents who didn’t have a legal immigration status paid more than $758 million in state and local taxes. In each state, residents without a legal immigration status, annually, pay millions of dollars in taxes each year. This program costs the state $5 million annually. For a demographic that contributes significantly to this country, the least we can do is give them affordable healthcare.

If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that our current healthcare system is not good enough. COVID-19 is still at large and as of today, almost 500,000 Americans have lost their lives. Nearly 848,000 people filed unemployment claims in the last week. Over 12 million Americans may lose their health insurance over the next year. Although these numbers are heightened due to the pandemic, it’s also indicative of the issues our healthcare system has continuously faced over the past several decades.

Fixing our healthcare system will not be simple, but we have to take the next step. We must improve our coverage to include more and more individuals. Other states need to follow Illinois’s example by expanding their coverage incrementally as well. Our front-line workers need to have access to quality healthcare without being concerned about the rising costs of treatment. Healthcare is a human right, and the government should bear the cost to provide quality healthcare to all of its constituents. This provision, incorporated by the Illinois State Legislature is not one of a socialist, communist-esque agenda as some may have you believe. Rather, it’s an incremental step towards better healthcare.

Arjun Ramachandran is a a junior at Carnegie Mellon studying International Relations and Politics with a minor in Cybersecurity and International Conflict and Music Technology. His academic interests include education policy, Middle Eastern history, local Illinois politics, and national security law. In his free time, he enjoys playing drums/guitar/singing, running, and writing short stories.

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