HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — For weeks, there’s been a push at the state capitol in Hartford to expand health coverage for undocumented immigrant youth.

Earlier this month, a rally was held outside the capitol building supporting the cause. The General Assembly’s proposed budget would expand HUSKY Healthcare for immigrants up to 15, but there’s support to increase the expansion to 18.

“We cannot expect our kids to thrive, to learn in school, to be the future here in Connecticut without access to health insurance,” State Rep. Kate Farrar (D-West Hartford and Newington) said.

In 2021, the General Assembly expanded HUSKY Health benefits to children eight and under. Last year, coverage was expanded again to the age of 12.

New Haven Physician Kiki Kennedy said limited health access forces families to ignore health issues or forfeit other needs.

“Because when people can’t access basic medical services, they wait, they delay, they worry that the cost of a healthcare visit may mean there’s no food on the table that day and the next day,” Kennedy said.

State Rep. Anthony Nolan (D-New London) has been leading the charge for HB6616. He says expanding access could benefit the state financially.

“Without access to healthcare, many immigrants may not receive medical treatment or preventative care, which could lead to more serious health issues down the road. Including them instead of going to one of our emergency medical centers and creating a financial burden on our state,” Nolan said.

Advocates said the funding would help about 5,000 undocumented immigrants and cost about $15 million, or less than 1% of the Medicaid budget.