Groups Attempt To Boost Immigrants' Understanding Of Massachusetts Health Insurance Mandate

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To address"widespread" confusion among immigrants about the new Massachusetts healthinsurance mandate, various groups have been conducting workshops and othervisits to communities around the state, MetroWest Daily News reports (Mineo, MetroWestDaily News, 12/16).

The law requires Massachusettsresidents to obtain health coverage. Most residents who do not obtain healthcoverage will lose their 2008 state income tax exemption, worth $219, andresidents who remain uninsured in 2008 will face fines of half the cost of theleast 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

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  • Commonwealth Choice, another program offered through the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority.


Carly Burton,policy director at the
MassachusettsImmigrant Refugee Advocacy Coalition, said, "Undocumented immigrants are stuckbetween a rock and a hard place. They work multiple jobs, pay taxes, are notoffered health insurance by their employers or by the new laws, and yet aresubject to the mandate."

Only undocumented immigrants who file income taxes will be penalized if theydon't have health insurance. Undocumented immigrants can apply for coveragethrough MassHealth Limited, which only covers emergency services, and theHealth Safety Net Pool, which is open to low-income residents.

The Brazilian American Association starting in October sponsored fourworkshops on the new law that featured Milagros Abrue, a researcher from BostonUniversity'sSchool of Public Health. Arlete Falkowski, an associationvolunteer, said, "People know there is a deadline and a penalty. But theydon'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 appliedfor health insurance.

The Metropolitan Interfaith Congregations for Hope in September and Octobervisited two Hispanic churches in the area to help inform Hispanics about the newlaw (MetroWest Daily News, 12/16).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly HealthDisparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of TheHenry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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