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Immigrant community rallies for expanded health care coverage

Joe Amon
Connecticut Public
Patricia Olivier, 54, of New Britain, with Manos Unidas, speaks to the crowd standing with family and friends as parents and caregivers push to get health care for undocumented minors at the state Capitol in Hartford, Connecticut, April 13, 2022.

Patricia Olivier struggled to pay for her insulin medication during the pandemic.

“We have people with different conditions, whether it’s diabetes or hypertension. In my case I was carrying a controlled level of diabetes because of anxiety and confinement,” Olivier said in Spanish. “The medications are too expensive, and sometimes I [can’t afford] them.”

Olivier was among advocates and immigrant community members gathered in front of the state Capitol Wednesday calling for the expansion of Connecticut's Medicaid program. She’s one of the nearly 120,000 undocumented immigrants – according to the American Immigration Council – who live in the state and worry about not having access to health coverage.

Legislation to expand Medicaid, known as HUSKY, to undocumented minors recently failed to make it out of the legislature’s Human Services Committee on a 10-10 vote. Advocates are still hopeful it could get support this year.

During the event, participants shared their personal difficulties in trying to access health care, which has a ripple effect on families with mixed immigration statuses.

Last year, lawmakers passed an expansion of HUSKY that allows for children 8 and younger to qualify for health coverage. It’s set to begin in January 2023.

Brenda León is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Brenda covers the Latino/a, Latinx community with an emphasis on wealth-based disparities in health, education and criminal justice.