Bill would extend health insurance to 17,000 undocumented immigrant children

Hartford Courant
March 19, 2019

A state social service official and advocates for children, including an undocumented Brazilian mother with a GPS bracelet living in Bridgeport, came down on different sides of a debate over a bill that would extend health insurance coverage to roughly 17,000 undocumented immigrant children.

Many of the children are now forced to use hospital emergency rooms as their primary care doctors, if they seek care at all.

Rep. Anne Hughes, D-Easton, noted that thousands of undocumented immigrant children turn to hospital emergency rooms for the kind of medical care that other children routinely receive at the doctor’s office. She said the hospital visits would drop with the expanded coverage and she told Brennan any calculation of cost should include that reduction.

As the emergency room visits decline, preventive care increases, and medical conditions that could become emergencies or lifelong afflictions are spotted and addressed, said Jay Sicklick, deputy director of the Center for Children’s Advocacy in Hartford. Sicklick placed the cost to the state at $3.4 million in the first year, and $15.5 million in year two and thereafter.

Dr. Rebecca Vitale, a physician in New Haven, treats children and adults. “I see the impact on the adult side,” Vitale said in testimony prepared for Tuesday’s hearing. “Once a person has developed a chronic disease, they are more likely to depend on public assistance as an adult … Increasing Husky benefits at this early stage could lead to cost savings at the state level in the future.”

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