Rep. Cathy Abercrombie, D-Meriden Keith M. Phaneuf FILE PHOTO /
Gislene Batista, right, attended Tuesday’s public hearing on the bill with her 11-year-old daughter, Emily. Batiste, who came to the United States two months ago, is pressing for state-funded health coverage for undocumented children like Emily.
Gislene Batista, right, attended Tuesday’s public hearing on the bill with her 11-year-old daughter, Emily. Batiste, who came to the United States two months ago, is pressing for state-funded health coverage for undocumented children like Emily.

The legislature’s Human Services Committee approved a measure Thursday that would expand state-sponsored health coverage to undocumented youth.

Though legislative staff haven’t developed specific estimates on the numbers of children that might be served, advocates have suggested the total would be in the thousands.

“If one child in need is without health care, that is one child too many,” said Rep. Cathy Abercrombie, D-Meriden, co-chairwoman of the committee.

The Democrat-controlled committee voted 11-7 to endorse the bill, which would make undocumented children eligible for the Medicaid health care program known as HUSKY A, and for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, also known as HUSKY B. The former serves children, parents and pregnant women from households earning less than 196 percent of the federal poverty level, while HUSKY B covers children from households between 196 and 318 percent of the FPL.

During a public hearing earlier this week, advocacy groups testified that as many as 17,000 undocumented children and teens — up to age 19 — would qualify for coverage under this bill.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, a think-tank that supports more liberal immigration policies, Connecticut is estimated to have 7,000 undocumented children younger than 16, and another 18,000 undocumented residents between ages 16 and 24.

The Connecticut-based Center for Children’s Advocacy projects the cost-per-child to join the program is $2,482.

“I know this is a bold move, but we are a bold state.”

Rep. Lucy Dathan, D-New Canaan

Abercrombie said the legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis is expected to develop cost projections for the proposal later this spring.

Meanwhile, Connecticut is facing its own budget challenges. Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration projects state finances, unless adjusted, will run $3.7 billion in deficit over the next two years combined.

Still, supporters of the bill argued there is a real need among one of Connecticut’s most vulnerable populations that cannot be ignored.

“I know this is a bold move, but we are a bold state,” said Rep. Lucy Dathan, D-New Canaan.

But Rep. Terrie Wood, R-Darien, countered that “being a bold state has made us broke,” adding that Connecticut already is paying a stiff price for decades of fiscal irresponsibility.

“We all want to help people. We may disagree on how to get there,” said Rep. Gale Mastrofrancesco, R-Wolcott, echoed Wood’s concerns. “I look at many families struggling today, that are trying to make ends meet, that are here legally.”

“Being a bold state has made us broke.”

Rep. Terrie Wood, R-Darien

And Sen. George Logan, R-Ansonia, questioned whether the proposed expansion “will encourage further illegal immigration.”

But Rep. Michelle Cook, D-Torrington, said the children lacking health care are victims trapped in a larger debate. “The children might not have asked to be trucked along,” she said.

The bill now heads to the House of Representatives, and could be referred to the Appropriations Committee after a cost estimate has been developed. But it might not be voted upon again as a stand alone item. 

Provided the proposal has sufficient support among the full legislature, the HUSKY B expansion could be incorporated into the omnibus budget bill for the next two fiscal years.

The legislature likely won’t act on that measure before the final weeks of the 2019 session, which adjourns on June 5.

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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  1. Sure in 2023 this is where my toll money will go. Where does money come from. Just raise taxes so people who should be in jail for breaking the law instead get free health care while i have to pay thousands for my private care cause i “make too much” for the free state care. Im starting to think may be i should quit my job .The state can pay my way too .Instead of being a maker. May be its time we all just become takers .

  2. They are Illegal Aliens, not ‘undocumented immigrants/migrants.” The DOJ even refers to them as Illegal Aliens. They do not have any Right to be in this country, and they sure don’t have any Right to have citizens and legal immigrants support them.

    We already support their education, we allow them in-State tuition and aid, plus whatever other State-provided aid they receive. The more of our money our politicians give to Illegal Aliens, the more will come–and demand even greater support.

    No politician or other activist has ever answered my question for them–What law(s) will they allow ME to break that will result in myself and family benefiting to the tune of potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars?

  3. Remember at the polls which party supports illegal immigration and pays for them with taxpayer dollars. Our state is broke but there’s always enough money for illegals somehow.

  4. Its ironic how the democrats have so much compassion for “the children”, even when they are in the country illegally – but have no compassion for unborn children.

    1. I agree with you on that .But the repubs fight for the unborn and then once they are born. No medical care. No food stamps. Die once you are born. I’m trashing both parties on this cause they both are hypocrites.

  5. Our brilliant politicians – spend money we don’t have on people who just come from other countries to milk the sympathy/system.

    This is where private charity should have a leading role – not tax dollars.

  6. After 40+ years of my democratic support, during which working class Americans have not seen an inflation adjusted raise, I call out your failures and deceit.”I know this is a bold move, but we are a bold state” Rep. Lucy Dathan, D-New Canaan. Why, yes it is Lucy, bold enough to consider the theft of our tax dollars in exchange for votes. This is weaponized pandering.

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