On June 29th, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a spending proposal for the year 2010. The proposal includes an amendment allocating $70 million to retain state-subsidized health insurance for 30,000 documented immigrants who don’t qualify for federal reimbursement. Many of these immigrants, even though they are here legally, don’t qualify for coverage because of policies like the five year bar, which prevent immigrants from accessing benefits for their first five years in the US.
The Boston Globe stated that this proposal will require legislators, health advocates and state regulators to collaborate with each other to produce a more permanent solution to the problem of access to health care for immigrants. But considering the vulnerability of immigrants in this country, this proposal is great news, especially compared to the benefits available to immigrants in other states.
Immigrants in other states are less fortunate, especially if they are undocumented. Denying health services to immigrants -documented or undocumented- is not only unacceptable but also costly. People without health insurance often wait longer to receive care and when they do, end up in emergency rooms where costs are high.
Currently, over 47% of non-citizens are uninsured as a result of the lack of employer-based health coverage and restrictions on public coverage according to Kaiser. If these millions of uninsured immigrants were given the chance to pay for affordable health care, we could save money by increasing preventative care and reducing the burden on emergency rooms.
We can see this issue through the lens of human rights, understanding that denying health care to immigrants (documented or not) is humanely unacceptable. We can also see it in financial terms and understand that they key to bringing down health care costs is access to preventative medicine for everyone. Because doing the right thing many times is also doing the smart thing.
By Carolina Rizzo, DC Policy Intern