Hartford, CT – Today on Monday March 27th at 5pm, immigrant’s rights advocates, community members, and healthcare providers gathered for Rally and Visibility Action demanding that our CT state legislators invest in the health and future of our state by funding an expansion of HUSKY Healthcare program for income eligible immigrants under 26 years of age, which according to estimates, will cost around $15 million or 1% of the total medicaid budget.

During the event, immigrants and advocates called for Legislators to include funding in the state budget for an expansion of the HUSKY Healthcare program for income eligible immigrants under 26 years of age, conveying urgency by sharing their personal struggles of accessing healthcare – from having to rely on over the counter medication to treat chronic illness to not being able to access life saving surgery. This expansion would cost roughly 1% of the CT’s total Medicaid budget and cover about 5,000 young people who are currently living without access to health insurance. The impact on CT’s health equity in raising HUSKY eligibility to 26 would be great – as 66% of CT’s undocumented and recent immigrants aged 19-24 lack health insurance, whereas that number is only 39% for those under 18.

Ensuring that young people have healthcare into their mid-twenties is crucial for their short- and long-term health, as studies have recently recognized that young adults are a vulnerable population due to high rates of behavioral health risks and susceptibility to emerging or worsening chronic health conditions. Expanding up to age 26 will provide health care to a wide variety of persons: parents, workers, students – a necessary step if Connecticut envisions a state with healthy families and a stable, thriving, growing workforce that is ready to meet the needs of our future.

Legislative champions who spoke during the rally agreed. Representative Hughes stated “It is policy violence to exclude anyone from healthcare. We should not have to come to this legislature year after year to demand that our humanity is recognized. I respect you everyone here today for keeping up the fight year after year”. Representative Porter stated “Health care is a human right. I’m a mother and a grandmother. My children were covered by their health insurance up to the age of 26. My kids are no different than your kids. We will keep fighting until we win what is right.”

The HUSKY for Immigrant Coalition’s renewed demands come after a bill to expand HUSKY health to income eligible immigrants under 26 received overwhelming support at its public hearing – a 12 hour public hearing was accompanied by over 700 testimonies submitted in support and almost 200 testifying in person or on zoom.

Luis Luna, HUSKY for Immigrants Coalition Manager. “A budget is a moral document, and if our state truly wants to build a healthy and thriving workforce, our elected officials must not leave whole communities behind. That’s why today we gathered to remind the legislators creating our state’s budget – including funding for HUSKY expansion to immigrants in our state’s budget is the morally and fiscally right thing for our state to do. The current gap in HUSKY eligibility (which cuts off at age 12) makes too many of Connecticut’s immigrants much too vulnerable, compounding existing disparities in healthcare access. Studies and physicians’ organizations emphasize time and time again the importance of ensuring that young adults receive continuous care from the teenage years into young adulthood. That’s why Connecticut Children’s Hospital, a health system specifically dedicated to providing pediatric health care, provides “Adolescent Health Services” to youth ages 10-24. Ensuring that young people have healthcare into their mid-twenties is crucial for their short- and long-term health, as it will allow them to access essential health benefits at a critical phase in their development. Raising the age of HUSKY access for immigrants in our state to 26 will only cost 1% of CT’s Medicaid Budget – Why is this too much to invest in the health of our youth? In this year’s legislative session, Connecticut has the opportunity to be a national leader in health justice by ensuring that its young, low-income community members have access to health care, regardless of where they were born.

Rosa Rodriguez, Connecticut Worker Center, Bridgeport “I am an immigrant and mother of 4 children. I am so glad that in CT currently undocumented kids 12 and under have access to HUSKY – this is a step in the right direction. But I’m here today because I firmly believe that health is a fundamental human right regardless of your immigration status or age. I’m here today because myself and my family need health care too. We face many challenges because we do not have access to health insurance. Years ago, I suffered facial paralysis and recently I was hospitalized at the Bridgeport Hospital for four days due to symptoms of a stroke. I am worried that my health will worsen and I will not be able to take care of my family. I have to follow treatment with different specialists, and not having health insurance has made it difficult for me to continue with my treatment or purchase the Prescription drugs I need. I feel frustrated. I want to be healthy so that I can continue taking care of my family and my four kids. We need a healthy Connecticut, where our families are protected. And that’s why i’m asking today for our CT legislators to include in our state’s budget an expansion of HUSKY eligibility to immigrants”

Joe Foran, Connecticut nurse “I have been a nurse for 12 years, where I currently specialize in providing primary care in marginalized communities. I’m here today because as a healthcare provider, I know first hand that without health care coverage, many individuals delay seeking care until their condition requires emergency department visits or hospitalizations. Early treatment reduces the amount an individual will pay for healthcare in the long term by preventing health issues from worsening. Lack of access to healthcare means that chronic health issues, such as diabetes and heart disease, that could be easily managed or treated, develop into more serious conditions that require more medical interventions and become more expensive in the long run. I could tell many stories – of a young man in kidney failure requiring dialysis because he suffered for too long with undiagnosed high BP, of dental abscesses that were untreated which can cause infection. So today, I ask our CT legislators to include in the CT state budget funding for expansion HUSKY to income eligible immigrants under 26. I ask our legislators, what will cost more: Blood pressure medication or a stroke? Cholesterol medication or a heart attack? A dental cleaning or a root canal? The answer is simple, preventative care is important and we need to fund it now.”

The HUSKY for Immigrants Coalition is a coalition of immigrants rights organizers, health care advocacy organizers, community leaders, healthcare providers, faith leaders and unions fighting for access to health care and health coverage for CT’s immigrant population. Coalition members include: CT Students for a Dream; Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut; Hispanic Federation; The Semilla Collective; Make the Road CT, Hartford Deportation Defense, CT Citizens Action Group; CT Working Families Party; Planned Parenthood Votes! CT, Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF).

By Stephen Krauchick

DoingItLocal is run by Steve Krauchick. Steve has always had interest with breaking news even as an early teen, opting to listen to the Watergate hearings instead of top 40 on the radio. His interest in news spread to become the communities breaking news leader in Connecticut’s Fairfield County. He strongly believes that the public has right to know what is happening in their backyard and that government needs to be transparent. Steve also likes promoting local businesses.

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