Advocates Rally, Urging Health Benefits For All Regardless of Immigration Status
Immigrants’ rights groups and advocates gathered in Hartford this week to rally in support of Senate Bill 956, legislation that would provide HUSKY health benefits to certain Connecticut residents regardless of immigration status.
The bill was voted out of the Human Services Committee earlier this month and will move to the Senate floor. Some opponents want to scale back eligibility to those under 19 years old. At the rally, supporters spoke on the consequences of limited access to health insurance for undocumented immigrants.
Jonathan Gonzalez, an organizer with Connecticut Citizen Action Group, said the current public health crisis has made it clear how important it is for immigrants of all ages to be able to get the health care they need.
“As this pandemic has shown, making sure that everyone deserves access to health care, you know, health care is a human right, and it shouldn’t be limited based on income or immigration status,” said Gonzalez.
Gonzalez added that families with mixed immigration status like his face barriers to specialized health care. For eight years, his mother has battled lung cancer, but accessing the kinds of treatment she needs has been difficult due to high costs.
“And my mother’s case is not an isolated one. It’s something that happens across thousands of undocumented families in Connecticut,” said Gonzalez. “Overall in Connecticut, one in three uninsured people are undocumented. And it just highlights the fact that immigration status is acting as a barrier in accessing health care.”
Rep. Anne Hughes, a co-sponsor of SB 956, told about 30 people gathered at the rally that she believes the bill is an important step in tackling growing disparities and addressing health equity.
“If we do not address this in a moment when we’re getting federal dollars to deliver immediate relief, then these disparities will only widen. And the catastrophic losses and health and deaths that we have seen in the wake of this crisis will become more, and it will be on our hands,” she said.
HUSKY is administered by the state Department of Social Services and covers more than 6,000 children and 30,000 adults in Connecticut. Commissioner Deidre Gifford has estimated that expanding coverage to undocumented residents would cost the state $195 million a year.
Connecticut’s uninsured rate is 5.9%, but among undocumented immigrants the rate is estimated at 52%.
Brenda León is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.