Governor Deval Patrick has proposed spending about $156 million to subsidize health insurance next year for about 37,400 legal immigrants who became eligible when the Supreme Judicial Court last month struck down state lawmakers’ decision to exclude them from coverage.
The Massachusetts Health Connector, which oversees the subsidized-insurance program, will begin enrolling immigrants on March 1. It will use savings to cover the cost of expanding the Commonwealth Care program, which serves adults who meet income eligibility guidelines, through the end of the current fiscal year on June 30.
For the next year, the governor’s budget proposal includes about $73 million from a proposed increase in the tax on tobacco and $44 million from Commonwealth Care’s surplus to pay for most of the cost of covering the immigrants. The remainder will come from the general fund, said Executive Director Glen Shor.
Still, the total is about $30 million shy of what state leaders originally estimated it would cost to add immigrants to the program. Connector officials said at a board meeting today that they would be able to afford the new members only if the average rate paid to health plans does not increase in the coming fiscal year.