Durbin Meets With President Preckwinkle, Cook County Health Leadership

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today met with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Cook County Health & Hospital System CEO Israel Rocha about improving access to health care for marginalized communities, including incarcerated individuals, immigrants, and people of color. Durbin, President Preckwinkle, and Mr. Rocha discussed the need to offer health care services to the migrants arriving in Chicago after being bused to the region by the Republican Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott. While Cook County Health & Hospital System is providing wellness services to the migrants, Durbin wrote to Senate Appropriations Committee leadership urging them to increase federal funding to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Emergency Food and Shelter Program to address the needs of arriving migrants. This funding would support the Cook County Health & Hospital System as it provides initial support, including medical services, to asylum seekers arriving in the U.S.

During their meeting, Durbin also expressed his support forrestoring Medicaid coverage for eligible incarcerated individuals 30 days prior to their release. Under current federal statute, incarcerated individuals are prohibited from any form of federal health coverage, which leads to a lack of health care or addiction treatment as formerly incarcerated individuals are released.

Durbin also received an update about the newly-launched Change Institute – a think tank devoted to addressing social determinants of health that contribute to disparities. The Institute was created in response to a recent report showing the two-year decline in Chicagoans’ life expectancy, with Black and brown communities experiencing even more severe decreases in life expectancy.

“The pandemic has taught us that we must focus our efforts on addressing health disparities and ensuring our health care systems have the resources to serve those most in need, including immigrants and the formerly incarcerated. My conversation with President Preckwinkle and Cook County Health & Hospital System CEO Rocha today underscored our shared commitment to improving the accessibility of health care in the Chicagoland region,” said Durbin.

A photo of the meeting is available here.