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Court: State may be able to kick many immigrants off subsidized health insurance

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that the state constitution does not automatically give legal aliens the right to state-subsidized health insurance.

Immigrants had originally been covered by Commonwealth Care, but the state moved to strike them from coverage to save money. The state's highest court said that while the state constitution protects people against discrimination based on "national origin," it does not necessarily protect "aliens" against discrimination. The court drew the distinction between the two:

[A]n individual may cease to be an alien as a result of naturalization while retaining his or her national origin. Conversely, an American citizen, who may have national origins both in the United States and elsewhere, may lose his or her citizenship while retaining those national origins.

Still, the court, in a narrow 4-3 decision, held that a lower court would have to pay particular attention to claims by immigrant groups that removing eligibility for many immigrants might be discriminatory:

Aliens, standing by definition outside the body politic and yet subject to its laws, are a prototypical example of the "discrete and insular" minority. In light of their particularly vulnerable status, it thus remains necessary to exercise heightened vigilance to ensure that the full panoply of constitutional protections are afforded to the Commonwealth’s resident aliens.

The current state law, which set up a "bridge" program to help some of the immigrants kicked off Commonwealth Care, is based on a federal law the determines which immigrants are eligible for federal programs, including certain foreigners who served in the US military, Cubans and Haitians.

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Comments

Boy, it's a shame that they're kicking people off Commonwealth Care. I think I just lost my ability to speak English. Que? No mas insurance?

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I think you'll still have to pay the tax penalty for not having insurance, regardless of why you don't have it.

Isn't the penalty less than insurance costs anyway? Why not just pay it? If you're actually invincible as you claim to be, it isn't like you're risking having a $50,000 hospital bill for getting in an accident or something. So just pay the penalty.

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But the Year of Being Ripped Off is coming to a close. Thank Christ.

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The Globe story says:

In a long-awaited opinion, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court today ruled that the state's exclusion of thousands of legal immigrants from state-subsidized health coverage likely violates its equal protection obligations under the law.

The court said that Massachusetts erred in 2009 when it cut health coverage for about 26,000 immigrants after state lawmakers eliminated $130 million in funding to help balance the state's budget.

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,

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