How much would it cost to insure Connecticut residents without documents? A new report provides an assessment. – Hartford Courant

For Patricia Rosas and other undocumented residents without health insurance, going to the doctor is an expensive last resort.

So, in the fall of 2019, after Rosas felt unfamiliar pain in his country for more than a year, friends helped raise $ 5,000 just to get a diagnosis.

“My concern is, what if I didn’t know all these people?” Rosas said. “My story is the stories of thousands of people.”

However, a new study by RAND suggests that extending HUSKY’s health coverage to all undocumented Connecticuts would cost 3% of the state’s Medicaid budget, making quality healthcare affordable for more than 21,000 additional people.

A state study on the feasibility of extending Medicaid to undocumented residents is also expected in the coming days.

When Rosas first began to feel the pain in her country, she ignored it. He hoped it would disappear, but it got worse and worse.

In 2018, she visited a public health center, where providers could not find the cause. The pain didn’t go away, so she took aspirin when it became unbearable, but she avoided going to the doctor.

“Every time you need a doctor, the first thing [you need is] health insurance, “Rosas said. “That’s the first thing they ask.”

When Rosas finally reached a specialist through the generosity of her friends, her doctor diagnosed her with kidney cancer. After receiving her diagnosis, she was able to receive life-saving surgery to remove a kidney at St. Francis Hospital. She said she applied for financial assistance through the hospital to help cover the costs.

The RAND study estimates that extending HUSKY’s coverage to undocumented immigrants of all ages who meet income-based requirements would cost Connecticut between $ 83 million and $ 121 million, or about 3 percent of the $ 3 billion state budget. dollars for Medicaid for 2023

In Connecticut, 94% of residents have health insurance, but among the undocumented population, only 42% are insured. With enlargement, this percentage could jump to 57% based on estimates of how many will enroll, representing 21,400 people who do not currently qualify for Medicaid due to their immigration status.

The legislator has discussed the issue of Medicaid coverage for undocumented residents repeatedly over the past few years.

In June 2021, the legislature passed a bill that meets the requirements for children ages 8 and under who come from families who earn up to 201% of the federal poverty level for HUSKY, regardless of immigration status. Children from families earning between 201% and 325% of the federal poverty level also qualify for an asset test.

Earlier this year, a proposal to extend the coverage of all children under the age of 19 failed, not even garnering enough support to pass a vote in the legislature. Legislators eventually passed a reduced extension as part of the state budget, which provided coverage for children 12 and under and allowed each child enrolled in the program to retain insurance until the age of 19.

The 2021 bill, which covers eligible children aged 8 and under, also called on the state to conduct a feasibility study on extending HUSKY coverage to children, regardless of immigration status, from 9 to 18 and for adults whose households earn up to 200% of the FPL.

A spokesman for the Health Strategy Office, the agency in charge of the feasibility study, said it would publish its report to the legislature by July 1st.

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The RAND study looks at implementation costs for different scenarios, including allowing undocumented residents to enroll in market coverage and receive subsidies.

“What we really hope to do with this work is to give politicians a tool to say, ‘Okay, I want to implement this policy. How will this affect the recording? How much will this cost the state? ”Said Priti Rao, a political researcher at RAND Corporation and lead author of the study.

RAO and its co-authors also note that cost estimates do not take into account the potential savings that the state could realize by extending eligibility. Hospitals could save $ 63 million to $ 72 million in uncompensated care, a loss suffered by providing services to uninsured people who may never be able to pay for them.

In 2021, the state also spent approximately $ 15 million through its Medicaid emergency program, which covers emergency care for people with qualified incomes, regardless of immigration status. The study explains that this price is likely to decrease “significantly” if more people have coverage.

According to the study, six states – California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Washington – and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid or a similar program for children under 18 and pregnant women, regardless of immigration status. In California and Illinois, some undocumented populations over the age of 18 can also enroll.

Rosas is lucky to have undergone kidney removal surgery, but the lack of insurance still weighs heavily on her. She is supposed to have annual follow-up visits to the doctor, but she has already missed one because she doesn’t know how to pay for it.

Every time she feels pain, she can’t stop asking herself, “If something like this happens to me again, what should I do?”

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