May 23, 2024

Holistic Pulse

Healthcare is more important

CT high school students advocate for expanding HUSKY health care

3 min read

Advocates and Connecticut youth are pushing for expanding state Medicaid coverage for residents, including immigrants, up to 18 years old. Students from different districts adopted varied approaches: some gave up a day of their spring break to travel to the Capitol, while others skipped school to attend training sessions at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford Wednesday morning. Alongside immigration supporters, the students learned how to make their voices heard.

Eric Cruz Lopez, a program coordinator at Connecticut Students for a Dream, said he believes there is support for expanding eligibility for Connecticut’s Medicaid program known as HUSKY.

“We just don’t have the money that’s been allocated up to 18,” Lopez said. “Because we know that there’s a lot of people in our community — our staff, our members — who need help.”

While last year’s bipartisan budget approved expanding HUSKY eligibility through age 15 starting July 1, 2024; Lopez and advocates are pushing for coverage up to 18 years old.

High school student, Emmy de Leon from Danbury, Connecticut holds up a sign that says “No one should have to choose between health and financial stability” as her and other high school students and immigrant advocates with CT Students for a Dream prepare to head into the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Connecticut to meet with legislators to push for extended access to healthcare.

Ayannah Brown

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Connecticut Public

High school student, Emmy de Leon from Danbury, Connecticut holds up a sign that says “No one should have to choose between health and financial stability” as her and other high school students and immigrant advocates with CT Students for a Dream prepare to head into the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Connecticut to meet with legislators to push for extended access to healthcare.

Students, ranging from 14-to-18 years old, from various cities, including New Haven, Danbury, Hartford and West Hartford, many of whom are immigrants themselves, shared their personal stories and experiences with health care access.

Dorys Yanbay, originally from Ecuador and a 15-year-old student in Danbury, said ensuring access to health care is not just a matter of personal importance, but a fundamental human right.

“Many people here don’t have the security to go to the hospital or go and get medical attention,” Yanbay said.

Jermy Rodriguez is a 16-year-old originally from the Dominican Republic currently residing in Danbury. Despite needing medical attention, he recounted instances where he and his family without insurance couldn’t afford necessary treatments.

“There was a time I couldn’t access a dentist and I actually needed real attention,” Rodriguez said. “My annual checkup, I haven’t had one since like two years ago or so. We should tell politicians that this is a really serious issue within the state of Connecticut.”

High school students and immigrant advocates with CT Students for a Dream walk through the Legislative Office building to the Capitol building in Hartford, Connecticut to talk to legislators about a push for the approval of expanded healthcare on April 17th, 2024.

Ayannah Brown

/

Connecticut Public

High school students and immigrant advocates with CT Students for a Dream walk through the Legislative Office building to the Capitol building in Hartford, Connecticut to talk to legislators about a push for the approval of expanded healthcare on April 17th, 2024.

State Sen. Matt Lesser, a Democrat, chanted with advocates on Wednesday. Lesser said expanding HUSKY health care would cost $1.9 million next year. He said it’s a relatively small investment in the context of a $25 billion annual budget.

Sen. Rob Sampson (R-Wolcott) told Connecticut Public in an email that he opposes expansion and ties policies like this to the ongoing debate over addressing high levels of unauthorized crossings over the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We’re all sympathetic to people wanting to get into the United States — it’s the greatest country on Earth,” Sampson said. “We’re all descended from immigrants. But, you can’t have a nation without borders, in my opinion.”

Lesser said while they hope for expansion he remains proud of the success of extending HUSKY health care eligibility to all children 15 and younger last year, which he said served over 14,000 children across the state.


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