The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled today (read the decision) that the state’s removal of a group of legal immigrants from the Commonwealth Care program violated the equal protection guarantees of the state Constitution.
The case was brought by HCFA’s legal partner, Health Law Advocates. Background on the case is on their website. The case was argued in the SJC last November. We congratulate HLA for their outstanding legal advocacy.
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 copays 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.
Here are statements released this afternoon:
Statement from HLA & HCFA Regarding SJC Decision to Affirm Equal Access to Health Care for All Legal Residents
BOSTON –Statement from Matt Selig, Executive Director of Health Law Advocates (HLA):
“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.”
Statement from Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, Executive Director of Health Care For All (HCFA):
“We applaud the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision today to uphold our core value as a Commonwealth that all legal residents of Massachusetts deserve equal access to health care. These are our friends and neighbors who have a right to the same health benefits we have all enjoyed for the last five years under health reform.
“We call on the Legislature and Governor to carry out the decision quickly and fairly to restore Commonwealth Care benefits to approximately 40,000 people who the Court found were denied equal protection.
“Health Care For All will continue to champion the rights of every resident of the Commonwealth to receive quality health care in our state.”
Update from the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA): “We remain very appreciative of Governor Patrick for creating the Bridge program, without which tens of thousands of legal taxpaying immigrants would have completely lost their healthcare coverage,” said Eva Millona, Executive Director of the MIRA Coalition. “But we are thrilled today that the Supreme Court has signaled their basic agreement with our contention that all residents should have the same access to coverage, for which we are all paying taxes.The right to equal protection, like all constitutional rights, cannot be made contingent upon funding questions.This is a victory not only for individual immigrants, but for anyone who believes in universal health care and in equality under the law.”