Designer 491 via Shutterstock

Following a letter from 200 health care providers in support of legislation that would give Connecticut residents access to health insurance regardless of their immigration status, the Human Services Committee agreed to hold a public hearing this week. 

The deadline for the committee to hold a public hearing on the bill is March 11.

a green button that says support and red button that says oppose
Click above to vote on SB 956: AN ACT PROVIDING MEDICAL ASSISTANCE TO CERTAIN INDIVIDUALS REGARDLESS OF IMMIGRATION STATUS

Rep. Cathy Abercrombie, D-Meriden and Sen. Marilyn Moore, D-Bridgeport, both declined interview requests on the legislation in question.

There are currently two bills that would explicitly expand health care coverage to undocumented individuals. The bill that will get a public hearing Thursday is SB 956. It would give undocumented individuals access to HUSKY, which is Connecticut’s Medicaid system for low-income individuals.

“While the uninsured rate in Connecticut is roughly 5.9%, an estimated 52% of undocumented immigrants in our state are uninsured,” the 200 medical providers wrote in their letter to the committee co-chairs. “Immigrant communities are forced to rely upon under-resourced clinics and emergency care through hospitals. We as health care providers have all seen the consequences when our patients’ illnesses go untreated, causing catastrophic complications and, it is important to note, requiring expensive hospital-based care. These consequences are preventable, but the prescription must be written at the level of state policy.”

Matthew Meizlish, a student at the Yale School of Medicine, said the way the system is structured right now, it leaves out undocumented immigrants.

“The Affordable Care Act did a lot to expand health insurance to a lot of people but it prohibited undocumented immigrants from accessing health insurance, either through the marketplaces that were set up by the ACA or through Medicaid,” Meizlish said.

He said as health insurance has expanded for a lot of populations it’s also left out the undocumented community like his patient, who he is calling Armando.

According to Meizlish, Armando was working construction when a drill broke a bone and tore cartilage in his hand. His employer told Armando to tell the emergency department he had tripped and fallen and would pay for the visit himself. His hand was put in a splint, and he was supposed to follow up with a doctor, which he never did until the pain became unbearable four months later.

Meizlish said Armando didn’t follow up for care because he didn’t have health insurance.

“He had lost most of the function of his hand because it had been immobilized for so long,” Meizlish said.

Sen. Derek Slap, D-West Hartford, said it’s a moral issue.

“We believe that everybody should have health care,” Slap said.

Secondly, it makes fiscal sense, according to Slap.

“The state and taxpayers pay right now for health care for undocumented immigrants,” Slap said.

They pay because when anyone is unable to pay, the cost of their care gets added onto the monthly premiums paid by individuals whether they get their insurance in the private marketplace or through their employers.