What Medicaid expansion means in Illinois

Poverty rates are generally higher in rural areas than in urban centers. Also, residents of rural Illinois are more likely than their urban neighbors to be self-employed or working for a small business without employer-sponsored health insurance. They are, therefore, more likely to be uninsured or underinsured.

As written, the Affordable Care Act would expand Medicaid eligibility to all adults below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, ruled that states could not be compelled to participate. Fortunately, Governor Pat Quinn and other state leaders have indicated their intention for the state to participate in the Medicaid expansion.

That means that several hundred thousand Illinois residents who fall below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, such as a family of three earning less than $26,344 annually, will have access to quality, affordable health coverage.

Medicaid provides a crucial healthcare safety net for those rural residents most in need. And the expansion of Medicaid would bring in billions of dollars from the federal government by 2020, potentially financing the creation of tens of thousands of ongoing Illinois jobs. Moreover, expanding Medicaid will help alleviate some of the costs of uncompensated care for the uninsured, reducing premiums for those with private insurance.

Tens of thousands of health care jobs, lower insurance premiums for the currently insured and access to affordable healthcare coverage for hundreds of thousands of Illinois residents, all speak in favor of expanding Medicaid in the state, for rural Illinois in particular.

John Crabtree
Center for Rural Affairs
Lyons, Neb.

From the Nov. 21-27, 2012, issue

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