Health insurance concept, insurance form with stethoscope
Health insurance form (Vitalii Vodolazskyi via Shutterstock) Credit: Vitalii Vodolazskyi / Shutterstock

Advocates will return to the state Capitol today to push to expand Medicaid, known as HUSKY, for undocumented children over the age of 12. 

Last year, the General Assembly voted to expand coverage to all children age 12 or younger, but advocates say it should include everyone 18 and younger. Others believe it should be until the age of 26 and still others believe it should cover all immigrants. The law passed in 2022 does have a few exceptions for pregnant women and for those who obtained coverage at the age of 12 to continue it until they are 19.

The legislature has yet to propose legislation and last year Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration fought expanding Medicaid because of the cost. 

Advocates argue that undocumented families cannot purchase health care coverage, even if they could afford it, because they are prohibited, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get sick. 

“Without health care coverage, many individuals delay seeking care until their condition requires emergency department visits or hospitalizations. Chronic health issues that could be easily managed or treated, such as diabetes and heart disease, develop into more serious and expensive conditions,” Husky 4 Immigrants says in their petition. 

They say a recent study concluded it would reduce the uninsured rate of undocumented immigrants from 57% to 39%, reducing uncompensated care costs for Connecticut’s hospitals by $63 million, and reducing Connecticut’s Emergency Medicaid costs approximately $15 million. 

There are an estimated 120,000 undocumented immigrants in Connecticut. 

Rep. Jillian Gilchrest, the new co-chair of the Human Services Committee, said it’s something the committee is likely to consider this session. 

“I’m open to having conversations more broadly about expansion,” Gilchrest said. “Recognizing the eventual goal is to have Medicaid coverage regardless of immigration status.” 

She said the reality is, even if the state is not covering these individuals today, they still wind up in the emergency room and everyone pays the cost of uncompensated care as part of their insurance premiums. 

She said she’s interested in learning the cost-benefit analysis of not doing anything. 

While she doesn’t know exactly how many immigrants based on age the state will be able to cover this year. That will be part of a broader conversation about the state budget. 

Lamont’s office and his Department of Social Services did not respond to requests for comments on exactly where they stand on the issue this year. 

In the past, the Connecticut Hospital Association has supported the legislation. 

“As a result of this lack of coverage, many immigrants and their dependents have a great deal of difficulty accessing care. As is the case with other uninsured individuals, they may delay care or forego care entirely until their condition requires emergency department visits or hospitalizations. These services, which are avoidable if care is provided earlier, may ultimately be covered by Medicaid at significant taxpayer expense,” the Connecticut Hospital Association said in written testimony. 

Advocates for the undocumented community will hold a press conference at 10 a.m. today at the Legislative Office Building.