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Connecticut health care advocates rally to expand HUSKY coverage for undocumented immigrants

State Rep. Dominique Johnson and advocates from HUSKY4Immigrants at the state Capitol Wednesday.
Gregg Ferraro
State Rep. Dominique Johnson, D-Norwalk/Westport, and advocates from HUSKY4Immigrants at the Connecticut state Capitol Wednesday.

Connecticut health care advocates are calling on the state Legislature to expand HUSKY insurance coverage for all immigrants — regardless of immigration status.

Undocumented residents older than 12 are ineligible for HUSKY coverage. Undocumented immigrants are also ineligible for the state's health insurance marketplace Access Health CT, Medicaid, Medicare and other state and federal programs.

Maciel, a mother of three, has lived in Connecticut for 13 years. She has never had health insurance.

“It's painful and traumatizing having to constantly battle to gain knowledge as a person despite my lack of health insurance,” Maciel said. “Not having health insurance not only affects my body, but my mental health. It affects me so much that I had a panic attack. I felt like I couldn't breathe, I felt alone and I felt sad. Nobody should ever feel like that. Connecticut can and must do better to ensure the well-being of all people in the state.”

State Rep. Jillian Gilchrest, D-West Hartford, who serves as the vice chair of the state Public Health Committee, joined advocacy group HUSKY4Immigrants at their rally on Wednesday.

“We know that preventative care saves money in the long run,” Gilchrest said. “We know that we are putting money as a state into uncompensated care for those seeking treatment at hospitals. And so we need to look at what this policy would do to save the state money and also protect the lives of Connecticut residents.”

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) said it is in the best interest of immigrants and American citizens to provide preventative health care for all in order to avoid more expensive emergency room visits.

“I'm always open to looking at ways to get those without documentation cheaper, more effective health care — that's just in the best interest of all of us that are paying for our health care system,” Murphy said. “But of course, we shouldn't be in this position. America shouldn't have 11 to 12 million undocumented citizens."

"We should pass legislation creating a process by which those individuals either are allowed to apply for citizenship and become U.S. citizens, or, if they don't meet those requirements set up in the statute, are removed.”

According to HUSKY4Immigrants, there are 130,000 undocumented immigrants in Connecticut. Nearly 58% do not have any health insurance.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.