HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Immigrants and their advocates are asking lawmakers in Hartford to expand state health care coverage. Right now, only undocumented children aged 12 and younger are eligible for the HUSKY Health program.
“Access to equitable and quality health care is a human right no matter who you are and where you come from,” said Rev. Matthew Hogue-Smith of Glastonbury’s First Church of Christ.
Health care as a human right is the rallying cry for immigrant rights advocates as they fight to make benefits from the state’s HUSKY Health program available to more people. Starting last month, kids from undocumented families aged 12 and under can get those benefits, but not ages 13 and up.
“A mom shouldn’t have to worry that, yes, her 8-year-old can get health insurance, but her 15-year-old cannot,” said State Rep. Jillian Gilchrest (D-West Hartford).
At a Tuesday committee hearing, lawmakers are hearing testimony on a bill that would extend that age up to 26. That would let teenagers like 17-year-old Hillhouse High School student Valentina Diaz get health coverage.
“If I had health insurance, I could go to the doctor without stressing and worrying about the high cost,” Diaz said. “Improving my physical and mental health will help me to give 100% at school.”
Right now, families with uninsured kids have to make some difficult choices.
“Can I skip seeing the doctor?” said New Haven area pediatrician Dr. Julia Rosenberg. “Does my child need this appointment? What will the cost be?
Then there is the problem of undocumented parents not being eligible for health care. Victor Sanchez has chronic issues and a family to provide for. He spoke through a translator.
“How can I take care of my children with the constant feeling of uncertainty? I am not well. I need care. I deserve health care access,” he said.
The cost of offering HUSKY Health benefits to everyone up to 26, regardless of immigration status, is estimated to be between $15 million and $20 million. The cost of offering it to everyone, regardless of age, would be an estimated $63 million.