New Massachusetts State Budget Eliminates Health Coverage for 28,000 Legal Immigrants

Hispanic News Briefs From New England Newspapers

By Pedro Pizano, FI2W contributor
Siglo 21 Massachusetts newspaper

Siglo 21 newspaper

BOSTON, Mass. — The state Senate is seeking $130 million in savings by kicking “aliens with special status” out of Commonwealth Care, a subsidized insurance program for low-income residents, according to the National Center for Policy Analysis. The program will save an additional $63 million by no longer automatically enrolling new low-income residents.

The “aliens with special status” are 28,000 documented immigrants who have had a green card for less than five years. They will be left without health coverage from Commonwealth Care after August 1.

The Massachusetts Hospital Association says the $130 million cut will bring additional costs to the hospitals that provide free care to people with low incomes. They say those hospitals would need to spend an additional $87 million in 2009 to treat those who lose their coverage, according to the NCPA.

Although Gov. Deval Patrick approved the budget cut for the 2010 fiscal year on July 1st, he also submitted separate legislation to restore $70 million to Commonwealth Care. This program is central to the nearly universal health care law enacted here in 2006 that achieved the nation’s lowest percentage of uninsured residents: 2.6 percent compared to a national average of 15 percent.

“It either sends the message that health care reform cannot be done, period, or it opens the door to doing it halfway and excluding immigrants from the process,” said Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, in an interview with The New York Times.

Hope for these immigrants lies in state legislators, who may approve the governor’s $70 million refund.

“We need to come to a decision and we need to do it soon,” Patrick said after meeting with lawmakers at the beginning of the week, reported Boston newsweekly Siglo21.

The deadline for the state legislature to act is July 31st.


First Latina Appointed Presiding Justice of a Mass. District Court

CHELSEA, Mass. — After being sworn in on Friday, Diana Maldonado became the first Latina to be Presiding Justice of a District Court, according to Boston newsweekly Siglo21.

Maldonado, the youngest of 10 children, was born in the South Bronx to Puerto Rican parents. She graduated from Northeastern University with the highest honors and then went on to SUNY, Stony Brook. She first started working as a legal secretary to Judge Frederick Brown, the first African American to serve on the Massachusetts Appeals Court. Prior to being confirmed as presiding justice she served as associate justice of the Chelsea Court for the past 10 years, where she established and presided over the Drug Court.

“I would love to see more Latinos in every level of the judicial system,” Maldonado said in an interview with Siglo21. “The world is changing. The U.S. has an ever-growing population of Latinos and the court system should reflect that change in demographics. We need more judges that speak Spanish to better understand the Latino community that keeps growing.”

Maldonado believes her ability to speak Spanish will help her understand the 17,000 Latinos that comprise 48 percent of Chelsea’s population.  “All the judges of Massachusetts are compassionate and knowledgeable,” Maldonado said in an interview with El Mundo. “But in my case, I can better understand the Latinos who come from Mexico, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, and the rest of Latin America, because I speak their language and know of their cultural background.”