HLA's Immigrant Health Care Access Initiative addresses the many substantial health care barriers facing immigrants with low income. Throughout Massachusetts, the uninsurance rate among immigrants is improving with the help of our work and others’, but remains much higher than for U.S. citizens. Also, repressive immigration enforcement policies prevent immigrants from seeking care. 

HLA lawyers represent immigrants in low-income situations improperly denied health insurance enrollment and refused coverage for specific services. We also provide expert consults for health care and social service providers trying to help immigrants receive the care they need.

One of our recent clients was “Leila”, an 11-year-old girl residing in Greater Boston. Leila has leukemia and lives with her mother and siblings. When the family contacted HLA, Leila was receiving inpatient services at a Boston hospital. The family had applied for U visas as crime victims who have suffered mental or physical abuse. When Leila was discharged from the hospital, she had no transportation to get to the hospital for chemotherapy appointments. Even though she was eligible for MassHealth benefits that cover transportation to medical appointments because of her U visa application and her health status, Leila had been wrongfully denied enrollment in that level of coverage and was enrolled instead in MassHealth Limited, which is bare-bones coverage. HLA advocated extensively with MassHealth officials to demonstrate that Leila was eligible for MassHealth benefits that covered transportation and Leila was able to receive chemotherapy for her illness.    

HLA’s lawyers improve health care access for immigrants through community outreach and policy advocacy as well. We visit community-based organizations to hear about difficulties immigrants face obtaining health care and deliver presentations on immigrants’ rights in the health care system. HLA also established an Immigrant Health Care Access Coalition to coordinate policy advocacy and community organizing among organizations interested in health care for immigrants.


Medical-Legal Partnership for Immigrants

HLA is now representing many of our immigrant clients through a Medical-Legal Partnership for Immigrants model. In this model, attorneys from HLA and The Rian Immigrant Center (Rian) provide pro bono legal representation for patients referred by hospital and community health center partners. HLA, Rian, and our health care partners develop systems to identify and refer patients who need legal assistance to enroll in health insurance or seek an immigration status. The program’s attorneys also provide trainings and consultation for hospital and health center staff.


Watch "Liana's Story"

In the 1940s, Liana survived the siege of Leningrad. Years after her daughter, Marina, emigrated to America to pursue a PhD, Liana left Russia and joined her daughter outside Boston. When Liana's insurance didn't cover services she needed to recover after a very bad fall, HLA stepped in to advocate for her right to health care. 

This video premiered at HLA's 24th Benefit Breakfast in November 2019.


Liana's Story from Tira Khan, Sugarhouse Media on Vimeo.


Finch v. Connector Authority (2012)

The Initiative builds on HLA's historic class action lawsuit Finch v. Connector Authority which vindicated immigrants’ constitutional right to equal protection and secured health insurance for tens of thousands of low-income immigrants in Massachusetts. In the Finch case, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) unanimously deemed a state law barring 40,000 low-income immigrants from a state insurance program unconstitutional. In the first, and highly critical, phase of the Finch case the SJC ruled that the statute in question was subject to the highest level of judicial scrutiny because it discriminated against our clients.


The Immigrant Health Care Access Initiative is supported by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, the Nord Family Foundation, Jill Block and Wade Rubinstein, the Fish Family Foundation, the Clowes Fund, the Massachusetts Bar Foundation, and the MetroWest Health Foundation.