CHICAGO — Several groups in Illinois are pushing for an expansion of a healthcare program approved by state lawmakers last year.

In 2022, every person in Illinois ages 42 and up, became covered by a Medicaid-like program.

The Healthy Illinois Initiative is heading down to Springfield on Wednesday to ask lawmakers and Governor JB Pritzker to expand the program to cover all age groups, including about 116,000 low-income residents, ranging from 19 to 41, who are not covered.

Advocates say the expansion would cost a maximum of $200 million annually.

Healthy Illinois says uninsured people now cost upwards of $800 million a year to the healthcare system in the state. Expanding Medicaid-like coverage would save money in the long run and help get those with illnesses back on their feet and able to work, supporters added.

“We need to say, ‘I bring value to the table,'” said Carmen Velásquez with Healthy Illinois Campaign. “‘I clean your house. I do your gardening. I am valuable and value social justice.’ We are entitled to healthcare for all.”

“We constantly see the people who aren’t covered and the people that fall through the cracks and that’s what we’re here advocating for today,” added Rush University Medical Center social worker Padraic Stanley.

For this expansion to happen, it needs to happen fast. The bill must pass the State Assembly and the House by the end of the legislative session on Friday. If the bill doesn’t pass, healthcare advocates must start over again.

A spokesperson for Governor Pritzker told WGN of the initial phase of Healthy Illinois, “When these advocates proposed this program, they estimated it would cost $4 million. This program has ballooned to costing over $1 billion now, and that’s before this proposed expansion.’”