Celebrate America by Celebrating Our Immigrants (Not Fighting Them in Court)

The budget released last night continues the Commonwealth Care Bridge program for another fiscal year, with a $42 million funding level. The program only cover “special status” legal immigrants who were enrolled in the full Commonwealth Care program as of summer 2009. This is around 18,000 people, and dropping, as individuals on the program gain their eligibility for full benefits (if they have been legal residents over 5 years), or lose eligibility because of income changes, or bureaucratic reasons. We thank the legislature for maintaining funds for the stopgap Bridge program.

Meanwhile, there’s over 20,000 people eligible for the program but locked out because of the enrollment restrictions. They remain uninsured, with very limited care available through the Health Safety Net program.

And meanwhile, the legal fight over the legal immigrants continues. Despite a decisive SJC ruling that the state’s action stripping these legal immigrants of their coverage was unconstitutional, the state continues to argue in court against re-integration of all legal immigrants into regular coverage. Chelsea Conaboy of the Globe summarized the status the legal fight:

Under pressure from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the state is attempting to recast a law that blocks an estimated 20,000 legal immigrants from state health insurance as one that was aimed at furthering national immigration policy rather than saving the state money, according to lawyers representing immigrants in the case.

A filing they made yesterday urged Associate Justice Robert J. Cordy to reject the state’s argument and strike down the 2009 law that excluded many from receiving benefits from the state subsidized health program and limited coverage for others.

Matt Selig, executive director of Health Law Advocates, a Boston public interest firm that filed the case on behalf of immigrants, said that was the first time the state has mentioned that goal in two years of litigation.

“There’s really absolutely no evidence to support the contention that that was the motivation for this law,” he said.

Instead, he said, the state has talked about the law as a measure that was necessary to save money. Despite the pinch it would put in the state’s budget, the full court said in its ruling last month that it could not consider financial consequences in deciding the merits of the case….

The brief filed by Health Law Advocates replying to the state’s new claim demolishes all of the state’s brand new arguments. Even if you don’t usually read legal documents, this is worth looking at. After reading the brief, the Attorney General asked to reply to the reply. That brief is due Friday.

We urge the state to admit the obvious, and end the charade of stringing out the final decision in this case on unsupported legal grounds.
-Brian Rosman

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