Sunday, June 23, 2024

Massachusetts Scales Back Health Care for Immigrants


Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick announced on Monday that with the implementation of a scaled-back plan, state-subsidized health insurance for 31,000 legal immigrants in the state will no longer cover dental, hospice or skilled-nursing care.

Gov. Patrick said that he and his administration struggled to create a program “that preserves the promise of health care reform” even though the state legislature, while trying to close the budget deficit, cut the majority of the money allotted to immigrants. Although their health benefits will be reduced in some areas, Gov. Patrick said that the program was overall a victory because the services that the affected group uses the most will continue to be covered.

“It’s an extraordinary accomplishment,” he said during a conference call with reporters, “to offer virtually full coverage for the entire population that’s been impacted in the face of really extraordinary budget constraints.”

The new plan will cost the state $40 million a year and will cover permanent residents who have had green cards for less than five years. Leslie A. Kirwan, Gov. Patrick’s finance director, explained that under this plan some of the covered immigrants may be charged higher co-payments or may have to find new doctors.

Gov. Patrick insisted that the new coverage is comprehensive and believes that it could be a cheaper model for state-subsidized benefits. Massachusetts, along with California, New York and Pennsylvania, is one of the few states to provide at least some health coverage for such immigrants.

Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, explained that she was worried about immigrants having to find new doctors. She also expressed concern that the new coverage may require a higher co-payment – $50 instead of between $1 and $3 – for non-generic prescription drugs.

New York Times