Groups Attempt To Boost Immigrants’ Understanding of Massachusetts Health Insurance Mandate
To address "widespread" confusion among immigrants about the new Massachusetts health insurance mandate, various groups have been conducting workshops and other visits to communities around the state, MetroWest Daily News reports (Mineo, MetroWest Daily News, 12/16).
The law requires Massachusetts residents to obtain health coverage. Most residents who do not obtain health coverage will lose their 2008 state income tax exemption, worth $219, and residents who remain uninsured in 2008 will face fines of half the cost of the least expensive insurance policy available, probably at least $1,000 (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 11/26).
Immigrants who are legal residents can apply for:
- Commonwealth Care, which provides subsidized health coverage;
- MassHealth Standard, the state's Medicaid program; or
- Commonwealth Choice, another program offered through the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority.
Carly Burton, policy director at the Massachusetts Immigrant Refugee Advocacy Coalition, said, "Undocumented immigrants are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They work multiple jobs, pay taxes, are not offered health insurance by their employers or by the new laws, and yet are subject to the mandate."
Only undocumented immigrants who file income taxes will be penalized if they don't have health insurance. Undocumented immigrants can apply for coverage through MassHealth Limited, which only covers emergency services, and the Health Safety Net Pool, which is open to low-income residents.
The Brazilian American Association starting in October sponsored four workshops on the new law that featured Milagros Abrue, a researcher from Boston University's School of Public Health. Arlete Falkowski, an association volunteer, said, "People know there is a deadline and a penalty. But they don't know where to apply, if they qualify or what options are out there." More than 300 people have attended the workshops, and about 150 have applied for health insurance.
The Metropolitan Interfaith Congregations for Hope in September and October visited two Hispanic churches in the area to help inform Hispanics about the new law (MetroWest Daily News, 12/16). This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.