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Leader of Connecticut Students for a DREAM Hospitalized With No Insurance

Bortoletto family

Ten million uninsured people nationwide have enrolled in private health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare. But it doesn't cover everyone living in the U.S., like undocumented residents. This includes the Bortoletto sisters who live in Connecticut.  

The Bortolettos came to this country with their parents 16 years ago from Brazil. After graduating from high school and college, Camila and Carolina Bortoletto co-founded Connecticut Students for a DREAM to advocate for the rights of undocumented youth like them.

Camila said they weren't afraid to tell their story because of the barriers they experienced. "For me, the turning point came after I graduated college," she said. "After graduation, I found myself with a degree, but unable to work because of my undocumented status."

Connecticut Students for a DREAM helped win in-state tuition for undocumented students in Connecticut in 2011 and in 2012, their advocacy efforts with similar groups nationwide saw success when President Obama granted deferred action to children who were brought here at a young age. That allows them to get a work permit. More importantly, they join 600,000 undocumented youth in this country who no longer fear being deported.

But deferred action doesn't remove all the barriers, like getting health insurance. Camila said it was early December when her sister, Carolina, wound up in the hospital with stomach complications. "And she had six different surgeries in early December to fix the issue," Camila said.

Two months later, Carolina is still in the hospital recovering. Camila said the community has been supportive, donating to a GoFundMe account to help pay her sister's medical bills -- estimated at more than $100,000.

Camila said the Hispanic Center for Greater Danbury is working with the hospital to figure out whether any bills can be lowered. According to the Connecticut Hospital Association, covering the cost of care for undocumented immigrants has been a challenge for years because the population falls in a coverage gap.

In a statement, CHA said hospitals provide the care regardless of coverage or patients' ability to pay; then hospital staff work on a case by case basis to coordinate post-hospital care and work with the patient regarding the bill. The association said, "Very often this care is provided free, as charity care, due to the limited income and resources of most undocumented patients."

The Bortolettos are trying to raise $15,000 through GoFundMe. Despite the financial stress her sister now faces, Camila said they're looking forward to the next few weeks when Carolina Bortoletto can leave the hospital.

Lucy leads Connecticut Public's strategies to deeply connect and build collaborations with community-focused organizations across the state.

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