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Undocumented high school students call for HUSKY health expansion

High school students rallied at the state Capitol in Hartford Thursday to call on state legislators to expand the HUSKY Healthcare program. They want it to cover undocumented immigrants under the age of 26.

Advocates say the expansion would cost roughly 1% of Connecticut's total Medicaid budget and cover about 5,000 undocumented youth living in the statet without access to health insurance.

Cristopher Cabrera will soon be graduating high school soon. He's concerned about his ability to continue studying if  he loses HUSKY coverage when he turns 18.
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
Cristopher Cabrera will soon be graduating high school soon. He's concerned about his ability to continue studying if he loses HUSKY coverage when he turns 18 years old.

Raphelina Rosario, an undocumented student at Danbury High School, said she is the only person in her family without health care. Rosario got an infection over the summer and was afraid to go to the emergency room because she couldn’t pay for her medical bills. She’s concerned that after she turns 18 this year, she won’t have any access to health insurance.

“I will be 18 years old this summer. I’ll still need to go to the doctor when I finish high school. Our health care needs to not end at the age of 18. We need access to health care throughout our lives. It scares me to grow up because health problems run in my family,” she said.

"Expanding up to age 26 is essential to ensure that young people like me, my family and classmates can access the health care we need to lead healthy lives.”

Thursday, the Biden Administration announced the Department of Health and Human Services is expanding eligibility for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The expansion will allow recipients to enroll in healthcare coverage through the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid.

Students at the rally said they were not DACA recipients and would still not qualify for health insurance.

Cristopher Cabrera, an undocumented student who moved to Connecticut from Ecuador two years ago, said he wants access to health care in the state to be equitable.

“My family feels insecure and vulnerable. That’s not right. I want to live in a Connecticut where we can all feel safe and where we can all have a healthy future,” he said. “To make that possible, I need Connecticut legislators and the governor to ensure that the budget has enough money so that all immigrants under the age of 26 can access HUSKY.”

State Representative Hubert Delaney
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
State Rep. Hubert Delaney said Connecticut's undocumented population already pays for the HUSKY program through their contributions to state and local taxes.

Democratic State Rep. Hubert Delany, who represents Stamford, said Connecticut’s undocumented population has already paid $187.5 million in state and local taxes in the past year. Delany said a lot of those funds already go towards the HUSKY Health program.

“Allowing this policy will save our state and save our government money on the uncompensated care costs that we already pay,” Delany said. “Our undocumented immigrants are our families, they’re essential members of our community, they are our taxpayers. This policy is progressive, it is practical, and it’s what we aim to accomplish.”

Legislators have a deadline of Thursday, April 20, for the Appropriations Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly to vote the state budget out of committee. For now, conversation about the plausibility of this expansion continues in the Appropriations Committee.

Lesley Cosme Torres is an Education Reporter at Connecticut Public. She reports on education inequities across the state and also focuses on Connecticut's Hispanic and Latino residents, with a particular focus on the Puerto Rican community. Her coverage spans from LGBTQ+ discrimination in K-12 schools, book ban attempts across CT, student mental health concerns, and more. She reports out of Fairfield county and Hartford.

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