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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    Expand Husky benefits to all regardless of immigration status

    The Community Health Center of New London, Inc. has been serving the immigrant community for more than five decades. Its mission is not just to provide healthcare, but to make sure the care they provide is the best it can be. As a Peruvian immigrant, and after obtaining my doctoral degree, it was a dream come true to work in this setting and to apply my skills for the benefit of my community.

    I quickly learned it was a bittersweet reality. Most of my patients are undocumented immigrants and are excluded from Husky Medicaid, Medicare, The Access Health CT state exchange, and often denied by private insurance. I found myself working in a system in which the quality of healthcare I was providing was determined by my patients’ migratory status. After finishing my studies, I took an oath to not permit consideration of religion, nationality, race or social standing to intervene between my duty and my patient. Our state healthcare system needs to do better.

    Last year the Connecticut General Assembly approved an expansion of Medicaid to undocumented children 15 years old and under. It was a great win for our community and brought relief to parents who worry about their children’s health every day. But what happens if your child is older than 15 years of age? In situations where immediate care is needed, people can access the emergency Medicaid program that provides care to individuals regardless of immigration status. Even though this program offers some protection, the costs to our state are huge. Lawmakers need to approve House Bill No. 5371 and expand Husky Health benefits to all undocumented immigrants.

    A recent study shows that enabling undocumented immigrant populations to enroll in Medicaid could save hospitals an approximate $63 to $72 million on uncompensated care. Connecticut has a sizeable community of immigrants, comprised by 113,000 undocumented immigrants who contribute about $185.7 million in state and local taxes. Why, then, deny hard working people the access to affordable healthcare? The General Assembly has an opportunity to close the gap on health inequities and expand state insurance access to all immigrants, regardless of age and documentation status.

    Guaranteeing healthcare to all as a human right would be a transformative moment for our state. It would not only keep people healthier, happier and increase life expectancy, it would be a major step forward in creating a more vibrant community.

    Dr. Catherine Hinojosa is a nurse practitioner and medical provider at the Community Health Center of New London.

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