In a time of rising economic uncertainty, Massachusetts is moving away from its attempts to provide health care for all.  The new state budget eliminates coverage for approximately 30,000 legal immigrants in an attempt to help close a budget deficit.

This is a mistake.

Health care is not commodity but a basic human right.  Massachusetts had taken a strong, significant step in this direction.  Their experience is particularly crucial right as the federal government works towards expanding health care to everyone across the country.  And public opinion is behind dramatically expanding health care.  Nationally, 89% of Americans believe that access to health care is a human right and 77% believe that the government has a responsibility to guarantee access for everyone.

Specifically, the Massachusetts’ cut will affect permanent, immigrant residents who have had green cards for less than five years and are currently covered under Commonwealth Care, the state program to subsidize health insurance for those who cannot afford it.

Massachusetts attempted to provide health insurance to every citizen of the state.  Its main mechanism for doing so was requiring that everyone have health insurance, much in the way every driver is required to have car insurance and providing Commonwealth Care, state subsidized coverage for those earning up to three times the federal poverty level ($66,150 for a family of four).

Health Care For All, a Boston based advocacy group, points out that the rationale behind expanding health care (besides the moral imperative) is “it’s less expensive to keep people healthy than it is to pay for illnesses.”

When health care resources are distributed evenly and fairly across a large population, everyone gets the care they need before health problems become costly and more difficult to treat.  This notion of pooling resources and spreading risk is central to all forms of social insurance and is particularly important in health care.

Hopefully, Massachusetts will return to the values originally adhered to when first working to expand health care to all.

Read more at The Opportunity Agenda website.

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