Illegal immigrants and healthcare coverage
Massachusetts is the only state with a large publicly run program that assures low income workers of getting private health insurance. Last year, to stem the growth of the program (which demands a lot of taxpayer subsidy), the state cut off all illegal immigrants from the program. Now a lawsuit is demanding that these households be restored their insurance.
An article from the Boston Globe:
By Kay Lazar, Globe Staff
A state law that excludes more than 26,000 legal immigrants from health coverage is unconstitutional and should be struck down, according to an unusual class action lawsuit filed today by several of the affected immigrants.
The lawsuit charges that the state's Connector Authority and its executive director, Jon Kingsdale, violated the immigrants' equal protection under the law last year when the administrators cut their health coverage in the Commonwealth Care program because of a tight state budget.
The Connector oversees the state's 2006 landmark health law that created Commonwealth Care, a state-subsidized program for low-income residents.
"You can't violate people's constitutional rights, just because you don’t have the funds," said Matt Selig, executive director of Health Law Advocates, a Boston-based public interest law firm that is assisting the immigrants in the suit.
Last year, the immigrants lost their coverage in Commonwealth Care, after lawmakers eliminated $130 million in funding to help balance the state’s budget. The Legislature ultimately restored about a third of the money, and the immigrants were given stripped-down health care plans, with significantly higher copayments for medications and other treatments.
Selig said the immigrants have taken the unusual step of filing the case directly with a single justice of the Supreme Court, because the urgency and broad impact mandate immediate review of the legal questions involved.
Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, said it was unfortunate that immigrants have to sue the state, especially because Governor Deval Patrick and his administration have fought hard to retain coverage for the group. But she said the immigrants could not legally sue the Legislature, which is the body that voted to cut their health coverage.
"These people are their neighbors, they pay taxes, they are part of the fabric, but they are being separated because of their immigration status," she said.
Dick Powers, a spokesman for the Connector, said the authority had no comment on the lawsuit.