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Stephani Becker's picture

The big news in Illinois this month is that enrollments into new health care options under the Affordable Care Act from October 1, 2013 – April 15, 2014 topped the half million mark.  More than 217,000 people enrolled in the Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace and even more – 287,000 enrolled into the new Medicaid expansion. The latest Gallup poll is shoring up these enrollment numbers with related data: the U.S. uninsured rate continued to drop to its lowest monthly rate since January 2008.

This is exciting news for all of us involved in the Affordable Care Act rollout. At the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, we help run a technical assistance center for Illinois enrollment specialists (e.g., Navigators and Certified Application Counselors). We get to hear stories every day of enrollment specialists around the state who worked hard the past six months to get their clients connected to benefits, tax credits and cost sharing reductions, and now they are working hard to help customers understand and use their health care benefits – some for the very first time.

The 500,000 mark is definitely worth celebrating; however, our enrollment work is not done. Unlike the Health Insurance Marketplace which isn’t officially open again until November 2015 (except for those eligible for a Special Enrollment Period), Medicaid is always open for business. There is no start or end date for submitting online, phone or in person applications for Medicaid.

Illinois is one of the 26 states to have passed the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, so now all low income individuals, children and families are eligible for Medicaid.  It’s vital to get the word out -- people who may have been denied Medicaid in the past may now qualify.

Medicaid, like the Qualified Health Plans on the Marketplace, must cover Essential Health Benefits including pediatric dental and vision care. That means low income children, individuals and families will have access to preventive care, emergency room care, behavioral health care services, doctors’ visits and other critical services.  In addition, as the state’s coordinated care efforts continue to roll out across Illinois, each Medicaid recipient will be connected to a primary care provider to help monitor and coordinate their care.

Please help spread the word that Medicaid enrollment is open all year round. If someone is eligible and needs health insurance, they have not missed out. In Illinois, you can help them enroll online themselves or connect them with a certified enrollment specialist.

Let’s continue to push Illinois past the 500,000 mark!

Nationally, visit your state Medicaid agency’s website or You can also call 1-877-KIDS-NOW (1-877-543-7669) for help applying.

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