MA Supreme Judicial Court Rules for Plaintiffs, Says Excluding Legal Immigrants From Health Subsidies Violates Equal Protection

Foley Hoag Lawyers Filed Amicus Brief Supporting Plaintiffs on Behalf of the ACLU of MA

January 5, 2012

Lawyers from Foley Hoag LLP wrote an amicus brief for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts in support of legal immigrants who were excluded from subsidized health coverage and were handed a victory at the state Supreme Judicial Court on Jan. 5.

The state’s highest court ruled in Finch v. Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority that the law excluding legal immigrants from subsidized health coverage violates their rights to equal protection under the state constitution.

“We felt from the beginning that the Massachusetts Constitution precluded this kind of discrimination, and we are gratified to see that the Court agreed with us,” said Foley Hoag partner Ara Gershengorn, who authored the ACLU of Massachusetts amicus brief with associate Katie Perry. Foley Hoag associate Christopher Hart joined them on the brief.

The Commonwealth Health Connector Authority administers the Commonwealth Care program, which provides assistance in paying insurance premiums to low-income residents. The program originally offered benefits to legal immigrants, the court said. But in 2009 the Legislature excluded legal immigrants who had lived in the United States for less than five years and set up a stripped-down program for them.

The court said the cutbacks were made because of fiscal constraints, but financial considerations alone cannot justify discrimination. The cutbacks affected about 29,000 legal immigrants, the court said in its decision.

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