Meet Our 2023 Award Winners: Healthy Illinois Campaign - Health & Medicine Policy Research Group

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Meet Our 2023 Award Winners: Healthy Illinois Campaign

July 19, 2023

Health & Medicine’s Group Award recognizes that the sum of the whole is often greater than the individual parts and honors an organization or coalition that supports or enhances community self-determination and independence, focuses its work on any of the determinants of health, and has had an impact beyond the scope of its programs.

The Healthy Illinois Campaign, one of two Group Award winners, was founded in 2014 with the goal of making quality, affordable health care coverage accessible to all people in Illinois, regardless of immigration status. Structured as a coalition of grassroots organizations, health care providers, and policy groups, Healthy Illinois uses community organizing and advocacy to fight for immigrant access to health care.  

The Healthy Illinois Campaign—which advocates for and is composed of immigrant communities—has worked to make the refrain that “health care is a human right” a reality in Illinois through precedent-setting state policy.  

In 2020, the campaign made national history in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic when its advocacy efforts led to the passage of the first Medicaid-like coverage for older adults in the nation. Health Benefits for Immigrant Seniors was launched in September 2020 to cover low-income Illinois residents ages 65+, regardless of immigration status.

In 2021 and 2022, Healthy Illinois successfully fought for and won the expansion of Medicaid-like coverage to people ages 42+, regardless of immigration status, making Illinois the first state in the nation to cover immigrants 42 and older. Because of this work, over 63,000 low-income Illinois residents have gotten access to life-changing and life-saving health care, and many states are now in the process of following Illinois’ lead including California, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon.

“This award is an honor and a testament to the thousands of people, mostly immigrant women, who have organized and advocated for decades, and continue to fight, for health care for all,” says Tovia Siegel, Director of the Healthy Illinois Campaign. “Our campaign both advocates for and is composed of immigrant communities, including the undocumented and DACA-mented, who are so often marginalized and excluded in spite of their significant contributions to the culture and economy of our state.”

Through precedent-setting state policy that has since been replicated around the country, the campaign’s work has helped tens of thousands of immigrant Illinoisans access the primary, preventative, and specialty care. “We believe that improving public health is a social justice issue,” Siegel shares. “Healthy Illinois is dedicated to improving public health through coverage initiatives as a first step but, in order to achieve true racial and ethnic equity, we also believe that all people must have access to culturally competent linguistically appropriate community-based health care.”

In 2023 and beyond, Healthy Illinois continues to advocate for comprehensive coverage for all. In the coming year, the campaign will continue working to expand coverage to those still excluded, primarily undocumented individuals ages 19-41, and those in need of long-term care and home and community-based services. Additionally, Healthy Illinois will continue working to ensure the full implementation of current coverage options for Illinois immigrants ages 42+. 

“This award is a meaningful recognition that immigrant communities not only deserve full access to health care but are on the front lines of history-making health justice initiatives that benefit all of us.”

Join us on September 20, 2023, as we connect honor these local health justice advocates, enjoy food and refreshments from The Fat Shallot, and celebrate 42 years of working together to advance health equity.