Massachusetts Immigrants Maybe. Poor, Doubtful

20080801newsdevalpatrick2Baltimore A compromise of sorts seems to have been reached in Massachusetts to provide some form of health coverage for the 31,000 LEGAL immigrants in the state that had been bounced off the rolls as a cost savings measure.  The other victim of this cost cutting were the poor families whose automatic enrollment in the program ceased so that the state could save an equal amount of money by forcing them to go through the arduous application process for benefits and cynically knowing that enough families would not be able to navigate the bureaucracy that that they would save $65 million in that way.  Immigrant groups like the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition saw this as a “temporary” solution and a not totally satisfactory one.  Voices for the poor on their being the brunt of the other part of this cost saving were silent, as near as I can tell, yet this is a life and death question for them as well.

Governor Deval Patrick said that this program would cost the state about $40 million, so they have still saved $25 million on this mess.  I’m not sure how much of that savings has to do with the fact that for many of these families they will not be restored to this level of healthcare, even though less than they had before, until December.  Originally, the report had indicated that 35,000 legal immigrants were being denied coverage.  This announcement says 31,000 will be covered.  I also have no idea what will happen to the 4000 families not mentioned, but maybe this is what they call a “rounding error” in Massachusetts now.  To get a savings at the level of $25 million means that for these Massachusetts residents there will be no hospice care, no skilled nursing care, and a huge increase in co-pays for everything imaginable.  But, I guess the view in the Bay State is that this is better than nothing, and indeed who can argue with that, especially poor families who seem to still be caught in the nothing bind.

As a footnote to the national debate, clearly the hiatus in coverage and the cutback in benefits comes “thanks” to a deal Governor Patrick was able to make with a no-name, unknown Missouri health insurance company.  If ever there were a case for the “public option,” as it’s called now, this might be it.

Being a Citizen Wealth guy, I’m still stuck though on the other part of this budgeting fiasco, and this is the push out of the poor from automatic enrollment.  What are we doing about that Governor Patrick?  Where’s the care and compassion for the least of our citizens in the great state of Massachusetts?  Where are their voices and who will help their feet hit the pavement in protest?  The silence is disheartening to me, but their lives have equal value and need equal effort in finding a solution, be it temporary or permanent.