For Immediate Release - August 31, 2009

GOVERNOR PATRICK ANNOUNCES PLAN TO PROVIDE COMPREHENSIVE HEALTH INSURANCE TO LEGAL IMMIGRANTS

Patrick-Murray Administration maintains commitment to health care reform in face of unprecedented budget challenges

BOSTON - Monday, August 31, 2009 - Governor Patrick today announced that the Patrick-Murray Administration has successfully developed a plan to provide comprehensive health insurance to the 31,000 legal immigrants who were previously enrolled in Commonwealth Care and scheduled to lose their coverage because of budget reductions.

"We must maintain our commitment to the promise of health care reform in Massachusetts," said Governor Patrick. "This innovative solution ensures hard-working individuals and families have access to the care they need."

CeltiCare Health Plan of Massachusetts will provide a comprehensive set of health benefits for legal immigrants whose Commonwealth Care benefits were terminated starting on October 1, 2009. This plan will offer virtually full coverage for this population and utilize the $40 million appropriated by the Legislature to sustain health care for this vital population.

The program's implementation will be staggered geographically over three months. It is expected that a significant number of members will be enrolled for October, and all members of the new plan will be enrolled in CeltiCare by December 1, 2009 and have access to the Health Safety Net or to MassHealth Limited for any coverage gaps that may occur.

"I am very appreciative that we are able to provide health care coverage for the entire impacted tax-paying, legal immigrant population. I look forward to working together with providers whose support will be critical in ensuring continuity of coverage for members," said Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. JudyAnn Bigby.

"It has been the Governor's priority to continue to offer health coverage for legal immigrants who do not currently qualify for federal reimbursement," said Administration and Finance Secretary Leslie A. Kirwan, who chairs the Connector Authority Board. "This plan will preserve their access to health care and maintain our commitment to health care reform. Having health coverage keeps people healthy, making our workforce more productive and strengthening our economy."

Richard Lynch, President and CEO of CeltiCare Health Plan of Massachusetts said, "As we all know the Commonwealth, like every state, is facing serious financial challenges. Working together with key members of our provider network including Caritas Christi Health Care and Partners Health Care, we were able to provide coverage for this population. We are very pleased to be working with the Patrick Administration in this important program."

"The Administration has worked hard to do the most possible to help as many people as possible with the money that is available. They deserve credit," said Connector Authority Executive Director Jon Kingsdale.

MassHealth, the Commonwealth Connector Authority, and the Health Safety Net will be working closely to ensure that information is available to members with questions, and that individuals with immediate health care needs are directed to appropriate sources of care.

In implementing its historic health care reform plan in 2006, the Commonwealth made a decision to pay the full cost for health insurance coverage of legal immigrants, including "aliens with special status" (AWSS). While the Governor proposed to continue this coverage in his 2010 budget submission, the Legislature eliminated Commonwealth Care coverage for this population. Governor Patrick vetoed this provision and offered an amendment to find a way to continue meaningful coverage with proposed funding of $70 million. The Legislature further modified the Governor's proposal, reducing funding to $40 million in a supplemental budget. Given that it cost $130 million to cover legal immigrants in FY09 and that the Governor proposed to create some level of coverage for them with $70 million, it has been very challenging to craft a coverage option with only $40 million in funding.

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