Document Type



In 2009 the Commonwealth of Massachusetts enacted a law, St. 2009, c. 65, § 31(a), that excluded approximately 44,000 legal immigrants from Commonwealth Care, a key component of the state's 2006 health reform act which provides health insurance subsidies for uninsured residents whose income are up to 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. In 2010 Health Law Advocates, a public interest law firm, filed a class action before a Single Justice of the State Supreme Judicial Court challenging the exclusion as violating the equal protection provisions of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. The Single Justice referred four questions to the Full Court. The questions concerned whether legal aliens were a protected class under the state constitution, and whether the state's exclusion of the plaintiff class should be subjected to strict scrutiny or rational basis review. The plaintiffs' brief argues that legal aliens are a protected class and that strict scrutiny was required despite the fact that the excluded immigrants were denied federally funded public benefits under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA). In May 2011 the Court agreed with the plaintiffs, ruling in Finch v. Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Auth., 459 Mass. 655 (2011), that legal aliens are a suspect class under the Massachusetts Constitution and that the 2009 exclusion law was subject to strict scrutiny.

Date of Authorship for this Version



Health insurance, Health care reform, Immigrants, Constitutions - Massachusetts, equal protection, Massachusetts, Declaration of Rights, Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, Finch, Health Law