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Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Tuesday, August 2, 2005

New Study on Immigrants' Use of Healthcare

According to the Washington Post, a new study in the American Journal of Public Health reports that immigrants receive an average of  $1,139 worth of care per year, compared with $2,564 for non-immigrants.  The study was launched to combat the belief that immigrants take advantage of the American health-care system.  Co-author Sarita Mohanty, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Southern California says that "Our study lays to rest the myth that expensive care for immigrants is responsible for our nation's high health cost... The truth is immigrants get far less care than other Americans."  The study found that immigrants, both legal and illegal, consumed eight percent of total health services even though they account for 10 percent of the population, with the largest gap among immigrant children.  The researchers say health-care costs for the poorest immigrant children are 84 percent below those of native-born kids.  Immigrants, on average, receive about half the health care services provided to native-born Americans, on average several hundred dollars less a year in health costs. 

Other immigration experts counter that tracking per capita spending ignores the larger societal costs of a growing immigrant population, which is far less likely to have health insurance.  Steven Camarota, research director at the Center for Immigration Studies responds to the study by saying that "The fact that immigrants, when uninsured, might use 27 percent less medical care doesn't change the fact that they're 200 percent more likely to be uninsured in the first place...Why have a system that allows in so many people aren't self-sufficient?"  He says that immigrants account for 18 percent of the costs associated with the uninsured--expenses likely to be borne by taxpayers and charities.  However, both sides recognize the many barriers, including cultural and language differences, lack of high school education, land ow-income neighborhoods with fewer hospitals, clinics, and physicians and pharmacies for immigrants in obtaining affordable health care. 

The authors, who are members in the liberal Physicians for a National Health Program, offer the solution of providing every person with basic healthcare coverage, as well as lifting restrictions on government health programs and easing entry into employer- provided health plans.  For more information on Medicaid and SCHIP eligibility for immigrants, see CMS

Lindley Bain provided assistance with this post.  [twm]

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