Immigrants and Health Care Reform

October 27th, 2009

It is an outright myth that the participation of immigrants in our health care system would have a deleterious impact.  According to the Immigration Policy Center, the following are the facts:

“FACT: The more people who pay into a system of health insurance, the more everyone benefits. An important function of health insurance is to pool risks and use premiums collected from the healthy to pay for the medical care of those who need it.

FACT: U.S. citizens make up the majority of those who are uninsured. U.S. citizens make up the majority of the uninsured (78%), while legal and undocumented immigrants account for 22% of the nonelderly uninsured.

FACT: Immigrants do not impose a disproportionate financial burden on the U.S. health care system. According to a July 2009 study in the American Journal of Public Health, immigrants use less medical care, and less expensive care, even when they have health insurance.

  • Immigrants’ per-person medical expenditures were one-half to two-thirds less than U.S.-born citizens with similar characteristics. Health care costs for the average immigrant in America are 55% lower than health care costs for the average U.S.-born person. Another study found that, in 2005, average annual per capita health care expenditures for noncitizens were $1,797 versus $3,702 for U.S. citizens.
  • Recent immigrants were responsible for 1.4% of total public medical expenditures for adults in 2003, even though they constituted 5% of the population.”

Therefore, the next time you hear someone unfairly blame immigrants for their negative impact on our health care system, please speak up and emphasize that immigrants’ participation in our health care system is needed to control costs and that they have posed less of a proportionate burden on our system versus US citizens.