When hand injuries forced Debra Davis to quit her nursing job last year, she wasn't thinking about the fact that she'd lose her employee health insurance as well.
"I have mitral valve mitral valve prolapse, hypertension and high cholesterol ... and arthritis ... what am I going to do if something happens?" Davis said.
Without insurance, she couldn't see the doctor or get a prescription. But then she learned that the Affordable Care Act started early in Cook County, which expands Medicaid coverage, allowing people like Davis to qualify for coverage she previously wouldn't have been eligible for.
She says the coverage was free, because she makes less than $15,282.
"This is too good to be true," Davis said of her reaction. "My medications are absolutely zero. I'm like there's got to be a catch to this."
Critics fiercely opposed to the Medicaid expansion say there's a catch. In a cash-strapped state of Illinois with one of the worst budget problems in the country, they say it's an unimaginably huge added expense when tens of thousands of people sign up for government aid they've never had before.
Plus, if the federal government decides to pay Illinois less for the program, that could come back to haunt its residents, like the pension is doing right now.
But Davis says it was either sign up for county care, or go uninsured. She says if she hadn't signed up, she wouldn't have been able to take her heart medication and probably wouldn't have gone to the emergency room when she wrenched her back trying to life her 92-year-old father.
"It was just excruciating, it was terrible. So I'm glad I had county care, I'm happy to be insured," Davis said.
While the debate rage on, Cook County continues to sign people up.
Applicants must meet the following guidelines to qualify:
- Between 19-64 years old.
- Singles must make less than $15,282, couples less than $20,123.
- They can't be eligible for Medicare.
- Must be a legal immigrant or U.S. citizen.