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Gov. J.B. Pritzker Moves To Expand Illinois Medicaid Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker annouced he would expand Illinois Medicaid becuase of the coronavirus outbreak at a press conference on March 18, 2020.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker annouced the state would expand Illinois Medicaid because of the coronavirus outbreak.

BELLEVILLE — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced he filed for a federal waiver to expand Medicaid coverage for COVID-19 illnesses in the state at a press conference on Wednesday.

“We’re working both with the insurance companies as well as with Medicaid with the federal government to try and make sure everything around COVID-19 is covered,” he said. “So that nobody has to go without treatment for a [coronavirus]-related illness.” 

The move would help speed up the application process for those already applying for Medicaid and would extend coverage to people who are underinsured amid the outbreak. The governor doesn’t want affordability to determine if someone gets tested, he said.

“We don’t have enough tests,” Pritzker said. “As they come online, we don’t want anyone to say ‘Gee, I can’t go get one of those because I can’t afford it.’”

The governor also confirmed many of the major insurance companies that serve Illinois residents would cover the cost of the tests and more.

“Many of them have made sure their coverage of their health care clients includes COVID-19-related illnesses,” Pritzker said. 

Pritzker also called on the federal government to help his state, and others, as they respond to the public health crisis.

“As we expand the need for coverage and the number of people who will seek treatment, that strains our budget in the state of Illinois,” he said.

Right now, the state is focusing testing on those who exhibit symptoms and are at higher risk if they catch the disease. 

“The reason is we want to make sure you’re not overloading the health care system if you don’t need to be,” Pritzker said. “If you have minor symptoms, you probably don’t need the test.”

More than 2,000 tests identified 288 people as having COVID-19.

Eric Schmid covers the Metro East for St. Louis Public Radio as part of the journalism grant program Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

Follow Eric on Twitter: @EricDSchmid

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Eric Schmid covers business and economic development for St. Louis Public Radio.