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Advocates call for CT to expand HUSKY health coverage to undocumented immigrants

Demonstrators gather Wednesday, January 11, 2023,
Maricarmen Cajahuaringa
Connecticut Public
Calling for expansion of the state's health care systems, demonstrators gather at the Legislative Office Building on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023.

Immigrant rights groups and state lawmakers are calling on Connecticut to expand its Medicaid program to all immigrants regardless of their immigration status and age.

In 2022, state legislators approved the expansion of HUSKY Health for children up to 12 years old. And immigration coalitions are hoping to work with the Human Services Committee on legislation to expand those benefits.

Several people gathered at a news conference to share their personal experiences. Stefany Melgar, a 22-year-old immigrant from Peru, has a heart condition and struggles to live a healthy life without health insurance.

“The fear continues since every year I have to request the help, or I am not completely sure if they are going to give it to me,” Melgar said. “Or if I have an operation, it is very unlikely the cost cannot be fully covered.”

The Migration Policy Institute estimates that of 113,000 undocumented immigrants in Connecticut, about 65,000 lack health insurance.

Recent surveys by advocacy groups indicate that New Haven is home to growing immigrant communities. Jonathan Gonzalez-Cruz, a member of HUSKY 4 Immigrants, says that these communities are growing in cities across the state, like Hartford, Norwalk and Danbury.

Gonzalez-Cruz expressed gratitude for having the public support of legislators, who attended the media event.

“We are here because tens of thousands in Connecticut — whether they are children, teenagers, adults — still don’t have access to health care, and it’s 2023,” Gonzalez-Cruz said. “As we have seen with the pandemic, public health is important.”

Since the pandemic started, studies show that immigrants are part of the essential workforce, mainly working in restaurants, housekeeping, retail and construction.

“That’s why we would like access to HUSKY because through our taxes in Connecticut alone, undocumented immigrants contribute about $145 million in state and local taxes ... and more than $200 million in federal taxes,” Gonzalez-Cruz said.

“Close your eyes and imagine for a minute you don’t have health care and what decisions are you gonna make. How long are you gonna wait, and watch your loved ones suffer before you bring them to the emergency room?” state Sen. Derek Slap said. “Think about what it feels like for a moment, and you’ll realize that our policies right now are cruel, and it’s costly.”

Advocates hope the gathering will inspire state legislators to discuss expanding HUSKY health care coverage during the current legislative session.

Maricarmen Cajahuaringa is a journalist with extensive experience in Latino communities' politics, social issues, and culture. She founded Boceto Media, a digital Spanish-language newspaper based in Connecticut. Maricarmen holds a Bachelor's in Social Work from Springfield College, and a Master's in Journalism and Media Production from Sacred Heart University. As a reporter for Connecticut Public, she is dedicated to delivering accurate and informative coverage of the Hispanic/Latino population in the region. Maricarmen is an experienced and passionate journalist who strives to bring a voice to the stories of her community.

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