State Mobilizes To Restore Full Health Coverage For Legal Immigrants

Health Connector director Glen Shor says registering the legal immigrants for coverage 'is an extraordinarily important organizational priority.'

The state is ready to resume full health coverage next month for the first group of legal immigrants who won a lawsuit in January. The state’s highest court said Massachusetts must offer low income legal immigrants the same insurance options it offers full citizens.

Almost 13,000 residents who are on a limited coverage plan will be eligible for full coverage March 1st. Another 24,000 legal immigrants who have been on a waiting list for insurance can enroll in May. Lorianne Sainsbury-Wong at Health Law Advocates says the challenge now is getting people signed up.

“There’s a lot again that these immigrants will need to make sure that they understand and make sure that they are informed about so that they can make the appropriate selection and enrollment in the program for May 1,” adds Sainsbury-Wong. Continue reading

Court Backs Immigrant Rights In Health Care Dispute

In a decision hailed by consumer advocates, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court today ruled that the state’s removal of thousands of legal immigrants from a subsidized health care program likely violated the state constitution’s “equal protection obligations, ” The Boston Globe reports.

The court said that Massachusetts erred in 2009 when it cut health coverage for about 26,000 immigrants after state lawmakers eliminated $130 million in funding to help balance the state’s budget.

The ruling did not order the state to reinstate full coverage for legal immigrants, but it paves the way for legal action by immigrant advocates that could do so.

The case was brought by Health Law Advocates, a partner to the consumer group Health Care for All, which said in a statement:

The ruling affects some 40,000 people, all legal, taxpaying residents of Massachusetts who were eligible for Commonwealth Care before the fall of 2009. About 20,000 people are enrolled in the Commonwealth Care Bridge program, which has lesser benefits and higher co-pays than CommCare. Another 20,000 are uninsured, locked out of coverage and relying on the Health Safety Net program for some care.

The recent substantial growth in tax revenues above forecast amounts (some $587 million in April alone) will allow the state to fund their re-integration into CommCare.

“We are very pleased that the Supreme Judicial Court has firmly and clearly stated that immigrants must have equal access to health care in our society. From the time legal immigrants were excluded from the benefits of the State’s health care reform law, we believed that law was unfair and unconstitutional. Now, it is time to remove this stain from our historic movement to provide health care for all and allow immigrants back into the Commonwealth Care program which has provided health care access to so many in our communities,” said Matt Selig, Executive Director of Health Law Advocates.

Daily Rounds: Deval On Immigrants; Hip Implants Recalled; Public Employees’ Coverage; NPR On Primary Care

Patrick says health care for immigrants may not come to end
Hopes to use federal funds to help pay for their insurance. (Boston Globe)

J. and J. Recalls Hip Implants
Patients with the DePuy Orthopedics hip implants should get them checked. (The New York Times)

States Press Workers on Health Care
And state workers push back against helping pay for their health care. (Wall Street Journal)

Future Of Primary Care? Some Say ‘Medical Home’
Part Two of the NPR series “Primary Care Under Pressure.” (NPR)