House Restores Immigrant Health Coverage

4/28/11 BOSTON -- Late last night state representatives voted to restore funding for a program providing healthcare coverage for legal immigrants. The program, known as CommonwealthCare Bridge, was stripped of funds by the initial House budget, but Wednesday's vote of 150-4 approved $25 million from the beginning of the fiscal year through December, after which the legislature will reassess the program's needs.

"We are greatly relieved that the Bridge program has been restored," said Eva Millona, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. "The program provides essential coverage for some 19,000 hardworking legal immigrants, people who pay taxes into the system just like everyone else. Our deepest thanks to Speaker DeLeo and all the legislators, especially Chairman Brian Dempsey and Representatives Antonio Cabral and Tim Toomey, who worked extra hard on this restoration, and to Governor Patrick, who also worked especially hard to save the program that he had devised."

Governor Patrick initially developed the Bridge program in the summer of 2009, when the legislature eliminated coverage for a special group of legal immigrants, now numbering about 19,000 Massachusetts residents. Most are green-card holders who do not not meet the "five year bar," which bans federal reimbursement to immigrants with less than five years of legal U.S. residency.

In a statement released to the State House News Service, Governor Patrick also thanked lawmakers for their vote.

"I am grateful that Speaker DeLeo and his colleagues in the House have recognized the vital importance of restoring funding that provides health care for legal, taxpaying immigrants here in Massachusetts. All of the Commonwealth's residents deserve access to quality and affordable health care, and by protecting this program we can continue to do just that,” Patrick said.