Mass. court backs legal immigrants' access to state insurance program

The Massachusetts State Supreme Judicial Court ruled unanimously to reinstate the access of legal immigrants to the state's health insurance program, a decision that the governor's office said will add $150 million in annual costs to the state budget.

The ruling said that Massachusetts cannot bar about 40,000 low-income legal immigrants from the state's Commonwealth Care program, which offers subsidized health insurance to low-income state residents. A 2009 amendment eliminated access to the program for legal immigrants who have been in the U.S. for less than five years.

The SJC said in the ruling that “fiscal considerations alone” did not justify the state's decision to remove legal immigrants from the program.

Health Law Advocates, which filed the suit, said in a news release that the state Legislature will most likely need to allocate budget in order to meet the obligations of the legal immigrants.

“This decision has significant fiscal impacts for the Commonwealth, adding somewhere in the range of $150 million in annual costs to what is already a very challenging budget,” Jay Gonzalez, the state's secretary of administration and finance, said in an e-mailed statement. “However, we respect the court's decision, and we will work expeditiously to identify the resources required and the operational steps that need to be taken to integrate all eligible, legal immigrants into the Commonwealth Care program in accordance with today's decision.”



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