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West Hartford Lawmakers Support Legislative Proposal Expanding Insurance Options to Undocumented Immigrants

State Capitol. CTNewsJunkie.com file photo (courtesy)

S.B. 956 would allow undocumented immigrants living in Connecticut to qualify for health insurance coverage.

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State Sen. Derek Slap (D-West Hartford) and state Rep. Kate Farrar (D-West Hartford) joined the Connecticut Immigrant & Refugee Coalition, United Action Connecticut, HUSKY 4 Immigrants, the Charter Oak Cultural Center, and advocates Tuesday in front of the Legislative Office Building to rally support for a legislative proposal that expands health insurance coverage to certain undocumented immigrants.

The bill, S.B. 956, provides Medicaid for pregnant women and HUSKY B for children who meet certain income eligibility guidelines. The legislature’s Human Services Committee voted to advance the bill on Thursday, April 1. Members of the West Hartford legislative delegation, which also includes state Reps. Jillian Gilchrest (D-West Hartford) and Tammy Exum (D-West Hartford, Avon, Farmington), fully support the measure and introduced original legislation early in the 2021 legislative session.

“Every parent should remember the last time their child was sick and that feeling of helplessness – but also gratitude because they could call their doctor. Now imagine how terrifying it would be if you had no doctor to call and no insurance. This happens every day in Connecticut,” Slap said. “Mothers and fathers wonder how long their baby must suffer until they go to the emergency room. This has become normalized, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. All children in Connecticut should have healthcare. Full stop. Period.”

“The pandemic could not make it any clearer just how much basic access to health insurance is an issue of life or death,” saidFarrar. “No pandemic, car accident, or cancer diagnosis discriminates based on immigration status, and our state’s statutes shouldn’t either. Health care is a human right regardless of someone’s immigration status. Our laws must reflect that.”

Undocumented immigrants have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but they are ineligible to receive assistance from many of the federal support programs enacted in 2020 and 2021. Despite paying into programs like HUSKY or other insurance coverage options on Connecticut’s insurance exchange with their tax dollars, undocumented Connecticut residents do not qualify for these programs. Due to the high cost of health care for those without insurance coverage, many undocumented immigrants in Connecticut delay seeking medical treatment, which can lead to more expensive care for a more complex health condition.

Not only can undocumented individuals face significant hospital bills, the state’s taxpayers end up funding some of the uncompensated care in the state budget. In 2019, the Connecticut Office of Health Strategy reported the state’s uncompensated care costs were $806 million in 2019 – nearly a billion dollars and up 5.3 percent from 2018.

S.B. 956 would allow undocumented immigrants living in Connecticut to qualify for health insurance coverage, which will encourage more frequent preventative care and help reduce the extra costs incurred by taxpayers across the state.

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