In the United States there is no national health service. Immigrants who do not have a Social Security Number or documentation of their immigration status may still qualify for certain types of limited coverage under MassHealth. Undocumented non-citizens are only eligible for safety net programs with limited benefits: MassHealth Limited, Children's Medical Security Plan, Masshealth coverage for pregnant women, Healthy Safety Net, and utilizing Federally Qualified Health Centers.If you do not have documentation of your immigration status, you may qualify for extra coverage if you are a pregnant woman, or if you have special status or PRUCOL. Without coverage, many will continue to turn to emergency departments and public hospitals, or defer care and experience adverse health outcomes. It is important—for both the uninsured and for a well-functioning healthcare system—to devise insurance options. This page will cover health care rights and resources for asylum seekers in the Greater Boston area for the following topics.
Apply for MassHealth, the Health Safety Net, or the Children's Medical Security Plan here.
Need help with your MassHealth insurance application? Click here to find assistance.
Call the HelpLine at (800) 272-4232 For Answers To Your Health Insurance Questions Multilingual assistance in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
Insurance for undocumented non-citizens
Immigrants who do not have a Social Security Number or documentation of their immigration status may still qualify for certain types of limited coverage under MassHealth. Note that your total income and resources must fall below certain eligibility limits, which means that you may need to provide proof of income and identification in order to apply. Additionally, coverage is available for Massachusetts residents only. Pregnant women and infants are eligible for MassHealth Standard regardless of status, and those who are considered PRUCOL immigrants (read more under Insurance for PRUCOL and Special Status Immigrants), may qualify for additional coverage.
Download MassHealth YEAR booklet for in depth information here.
Insurance for PRUCOL and Special Status Immigrants
If you have had your status or lived in U.S. less than 5 years, and do not qualify for any of the conditions above, you may be entitled to certain healthcare benefits as a PRUCOL (Permanently Residing Under Color of Law) or Special Status Immigrants. In general terms, you may have PRUCOL status if the US government knows you are living in the country and does not plan to make you leave. PRUCOL is therefore not an immigration status granted by the Department of Homeland Security, but rather a public benefits eligibility category based on your immigration status.
Here are some MassHealth benefits people can get if they have Special Status or PRUCOL status:
MassHealth Essential plus MassHealth Limited is available for adults with a family income under 100% of the federal poverty level who are also disabled and have not had a job in one year.
It is also for seniors (age 65, or older) with family income under 100% of the federal poverty level.
MassHealth Family Assistance is available for children (age 18, or younger) whose family income is under 200% of the federal poverty level.
MassHealth CommonHealth is available for disabled children (age 18 or younger).
Commonwealth Care is available for qualified, special status, or PRUCOL immigrants whose family income is under 300% of the federal poverty level.
Have questions, need help, or want to learn more?
Call the Health Care For All Helpline at 1-800-272-4232
Call the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition at 617-350-5480 x208
Check out this document below for more information about public health insurance for immigrants!
Alternative for Uninsured or Undocumented
Even if you have no form of health insurance, you have the right to medical attention in cases of emergency. Below is a program that may help to pay healthcare-related costs for uninsured Massachusetts residents.
"Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) (also called Community/Migrant Health Centers, Community Health Centers, and 330 Funded Clinics) are community-based health care providers that receive funds from the HRSA Health Center Program to provide primary care services to persons of all ages, regardless of their ability to pay or health insurance status. They must meet a stringent set of requirements, including providing care on a sliding fee scale based on ability to pay and operating under a governing board that includes patients.” To receive care, you need an address and proof of income (hrsa.gov).
Find a Federally Qualified Health Center
You can find a Federally Qualified Health Center by using the following databases:
Federally Qualified Health Center Massachusetts –– find here
Boston HealthNet – Boston Medical Center also lists Community Health Centers here
Preventive and Primary Care List of providers that specifically serve immigrant populations or people with or without insurance: *Note also that many of these health center clinics may also provide screenings and affidavits in support of legal applications for asylum*
Family Vanprovides free health screenings and check-ups, they will see anyone, insurance or no insurance, legal citizen or nonlegal citizen.Their mobile unit is on-site in Boston neighborhoods every week! Find the weekly schedule of the Family Van here.
Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights (BCRHHR)provides holistic health care coordinated with social services and legal aid for asylum seekers, refugees, survivors of torture, and their families. They will see individuals with or without health insurance. Specializes in the care of people who have experienced persecution in their homeland. They accept people with and without insurance and can help with medical and mental health services, as well as legal referrals and support groups.
Download their guide on health, legal, and social services, as well as life in Boston, and in the United States in general, here.
Provides comprehensive primary care services through regular check-ups, immunizations and screenings, as well as providing care for illnesses and injuries.
Will coordinate patient care if a patient needs to see a specialist for a more serious health issue.
Provides on-site interpreters and over the phone interpreters for more than 30 languages.
Has a Resource Map Finder for language classes, health clinics, employment training, and legal services in the Boston metropolitan area.
People who are new to Boston Medical Center should call at (617) 414-5612 to schedule a first appointment. Call for an appointment (617) 414-1994
Women’s Health Women may have special health care needs related to contraception, pregnancy, etc. As the refugee population may need different types of assistance, due for example to past trauma or language barriers, or help with particular issues such as female genital cutting, there are several clinics in Greater Boston area that cater specifically to the refugee women.
Medical affidavit writing for patients seeking asylum
Consultation regarding Female Genital Cutting.
Call to make an appointment! (617) 414-6376
No one is turned away because of lack of funds. They welcome people who may need support with health insurance and addressing transportation, food, and housing needs. Providers speak Spanish, French, and Haitian Creole.
African Women Health Center Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Is the first and only African health practice in the United States that focuses on issues regarding female circumcision. Works to improve the health of refugee and immigrant women who have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM). Will see undocumented immigrants if they acquire some sort of insurance. The overall mission of the AWHC is to holistically improve the health of refugee and immigrant women who have undergone female genital cutting. It provides access, understanding and community to women who have long-term complications from this tradition and who seek reproductive health care. We speak numerous African languages and provide female interpreters when needed.
Women, Infants, & Children (WIC) Nutrition Program WIC is a nutrition program that provides free healthy foods, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and referrals to healthcare and other services, free of charge, to eligible Massachusetts families. You can participate in WIC if you:
Live in Massachusetts
Have a nutritional need (WIC staff can help you determine this)
Are a child under 5, a new mom, or a pregnant or breastfeeding woman
Have a family income less than WIC guidelines
Contact them at: (800) 942-1007
ALL hospitals are required to provide translating services to patients that cannot speak English, regardless of status and free of charge. Hospitals in the city of Boston like Mass General or Boston Medical Center have at least 20+ different languages spoken in staff at all times, and if a certain language or translator is not available then the hospital will call the designated translator for the particular language. Smaller health care facilities like clinics will employ staff that resembles the population being served. For example, where there is a dense population of Haitians it is typical for the clinic in such area to be equipped with staff members to translate Creole, and French.