Bug or feature? You make the call.
Reporting from Washington—The Massachusetts healthcare law that then-Gov. Mitt Romney signed in 2006 includes a program known as the Health Safety Net, which allows undocumented immigrants to get needed medical care along with others who lack insurance.
Uninsured, poor immigrants can walk into a health clinic or hospital in the state and get publicly subsidized care at virtually no cost to them, regardless of their immigration status.
That’s obviously a bit bigger deal then in-state tuition for a few students who were brought to the US illegally by their parents.
Team Romney’s response to this news has been to try and distract, but the facts are against them:
The Romney campaign referred questions to Tim Murphy, who served as Romney’s state health and human services secretary. Murphy said the governor never intended the Health Safety Net to serve undocumented immigrants.
“Our view when we signed the law was that all benefits would be for people in the commonwealth who were here legally,” Murphy said, noting that the regulations implementing the program were written after Romney left office in 2007.
But Massachusetts officials involved in crafting the healthcare law said there was broad understanding when Romney signed it that at least some people who would benefit would be in the country illegally.
That’s supported by language in the law. Although it explicitly bars undocumented immigrants from getting certain health benefits, it does not prohibit them from receiving aid through the Health Safety Net.
For example, the law mandates that only noncitizens “permanently residing in the United States under color of law” may receive government subsidies to buy health insurance.
The law also spells out that undocumented immigrants aren’t eligible for the state’s Medicaid insurance program for the poor, known as MassHealth.
But the Health Safety Net, in contrast, is off-limits only to people who “moved into the commonwealth for the sole purpose of securing health insurance” or who are eligible for another insurance plan.
“There is no question that lots of different kinds of people, including undocumented immigrants, obtain medically necessary services as result of this program,” said John McDonough, a former consumer advocate who worked extensively on the healthcare effort in Massachusetts.