Semilla Collective members protest outside the State Capitol asking to expand HUSKY to undocumented immigrants in 2021. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org

Today, in Connecticut, there are children who lack the basic right to healthcare. It is not only immoral to deny children the right to healthcare, it does not make sense economically or for public health.

As a result of the pandemic, Connecticut lawmakers last year passed a bill to expand HUSKY to undocumented children under the age of 8, a measure that will go into effect on January 1, 2023. However, this age restriction still leaves thousands of undocumented children in Connecticut vulnerable to health disparities.

Lawmakers are concerned about the financial impact of expanding HUSKY to all children — included those who are undocumented — under the age of 18. But the truth is that it is a fiscally responsible decision to expand HUSKY. Investing in primary care services and expanding Medicaid programs, like HUSKY, would decrease the “likelihood of catastrophic utilization later in life.” Other economic benefits of HUSKY expansion, as outlined by the 2019 Medical Insurance Expansion Report by the Yale School of Public Health Student Consulting Group, include “decreased emergency room usage, decreased hospital losses, improved education outcomes, and improved health access and outcomes.”

Despite the growing evidence of its potential for long-term savings and economic growth, HUSKY expansion has failed to win support from the Human Services Committee of the Connecticut State Senate because of a concern about what “the cost would be to the state.”

The cost to the state of not passing this bill would be a failure of Connecticut to deliver on its moral duty to protect the most vulnerable among us. The cost to the state of not passing this bill would be a threat to public health. The cost to the state is Connecticut turning its back on its children and its future.

As lawmakers are sifting through cost-benefit analyses, Connecticut mothers are worried that their 8-year-old children will be phased out of healthcare coverage.

As lawmakers are weighing the pros and cons of this bill, physicians like Dr. Julia Rosenberg, a pediatrics instructor at the Yale School of Medicine, are concerned about the threat to public health of children being uninsured. She told the CT Mirror, “I was trying to make sure that I could get a child a tuberculosis screening they needed, which is important for the person’s health as well as for public health. I was having a lot of challenges, because this was a child who did not have insurance.”

These children are your neighbors, your children’s classmates, and your fellow human beings.

In the midst of a global pandemic and after all the disparities we have witnessed in marginalized communities — particularly in undocumented communities, does the Connecticut legislative body want to pose a risk to public health?

To every parent in Connecticut and to every person who cares about the health and wellbeing of every child in this state: we have the power to use our voice. We must appeal to our representatives in the state Senate and House to pass this bill. We must fight for these children because it is our moral duty and it is our promise for the future. Inaction poses a great risk to the lives of thousands of children in our state. We must do the right thing and expand HUSKY for all children.

Jon Andre Sabio Parrilla is an MPH candidate at the Yale School of Public Health