Advocates hope new bill will allow undocumented immigrants access to health care

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Connecticut Students for a Dream (C4D) is a student-founded organization advocating for the rights of undocumented people. C4D students came out in strong support by planning a testimony-writing workshop and showing up to the public hearing. (File/The Daily Campus)

This week, students, teachers and organizations came out in support of a bill that would prohibit private health carriers from discriminating against Connecticut residents based on their documentation status.

The bill, HB 6093: An Act Concerning Equalizing Access to Health Insurance Regardless of Immigration Status, had a public hearing on Feb. 7. Many diverse organizations testified, including CT Students for a Dream, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England and the Working Families Party, among others.

Lucas Codognolla, Executive Director of CT Students For a Dream, called for the support of Connecticut legislators, emphasizing the potential impact the Insurance and Real Estate Committee could have.

“This esteemed Committee can send a bold message that our state and its legislators support the dreams of young people, believe in equality for Connecticut residents regardless of immigration status and are committed to seeing Connecticut residents healthy and thriving.”

Connecticut Students for a Dream (C4D) is a student-founded organization advocating for the rights of undocumented people. C4D students came out in strong support by planning a testimony-writing workshop and showing up to the public hearing.

Kiara Ruesta, a senior sociology major who is currently working on the “Live Unafraid” campaign, expressed how the bill’s passage would play an important role in the campaign’s mission.

“We are looking at legislative work that will help the community live unafraid, such as racial justice, gender justice, immigration rights, education and health care, all things that will help the community prosper and succeed in an environment where there are not many opportunities,” Ruesta said.

Students shared personal stories of family members or friends who have resisted getting medical help despite finding themselves in desperate situations. Others expressed the fearful state they live in because they do not have health insurance.

Resisting medical aid when experiencing serious medical problems can result in emergency visits, which are far more costly for a patient than preventative care. A case in Camden, New Jersey found that preventative care not only gave patients higher-quality care, but also cut down on costs.

In a press conference, Rep. Roland Lamar, who introduced the bill, described it as “simple and common sense legislation.”

According to the American Immigration Council, in 2014 undocumented immigrants in Connecticut paid $124.7 million in local and state taxes. (https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/immigrants-connecticut) Although undocumented people pay into Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, they are not eligible to receive the benefits.

Certain clinics across the state offer primary care for a sliding cost, regardless of immigration status. These programs are critical to helping communities not reached by the health care system.

Health clinics in schools also work to bridge health inequity by allowing students to come in and get checkups, vaccines and other primary services. These services are beneficial, but only serve students and cannot extend to entire families.

Many teachers and counselors from high schools across Connecticut wrote testimony describing how healthcare discrimination was an obstacle to students’ success.

Liz Demsky, a school counselor at Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven, said a lack of access to health services can negatively affect students.

“When students do not have access to healthcare, issues will arise that have long- lasting effects. Students may end up having to miss school more often when compared with a student who has been treated,” Demsky said. “This has implications for their academic performance and even scholarship applications like New Haven Promise that has a minimum attendance requirement.”

New Haven Promise is a program which covers tuition for eligible New Haven public school students to Connecticut state universities, regardless of documentation.

In her testimony, Demsky elaborated on the stresses and challenges students face when their relatives get sick with no access to healthcare.

“Caring for a sick parent is even more complicated when they cannot access treatment,” Demsky said.

Hamden Rep. Josh Elliott, who co-sponsored HB 6093, said he supports the bill because he believes that nobody should be denied necessary healthcare due to immigration status.

“This is an issue of empathy; the bill doesn’t violate federal guidelines, and it aids the economy,” Elliot said. “In a community like Hamden, which has historically had a significant immigrant population, it is especially important to support all of our citizens statewide, regardless of their official legal situation.”


Alyssa Pagan is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached at alyssa.pagan_hagearty@uconn.edu.

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