Undocumented immigrants in O.C. use fewer health services than rest of population

(Medical Xpress) -- According to a new UC Irvine study, undocumented immigrants living in Orange County utilized fewer medical services in 2005 than did documented immigrants and citizens of Latino and non-Latino white backgrounds in the region. The discrepancy was found to be, in large part, attributable to a lack of health insurance among undocumented immigrants.

“It’s a common misperception that undocumented immigrants overuse and rely primarily on hospital emergency rooms for care,” said UCI anthropologist Leo Chavez, author of the study. “Despite what we hear in the public debate, there is not a great deal of social science data on healthcare for undocumented immigrants.”

His work, published online in Social Science & Medicine, provides statistical data on the type and frequency of services accessed by undocumented immigrants in comparison to documented immigrants and citizens. Findings are based on information collected in a 2006 telephone survey of 805 Latino and 396 non-Latino white men and women 18 and older with both listed and unlisted phone numbers.

Of the Latino participants, 794 revealed their citizenship status. This self-reported sample comprised 30.4 percent undocumented immigrants, 25.8 percent legal permanent residents, 14.6 percent naturalized citizens, and 29.2 percent U.S.-born citizens. Of the white participants, 5.8 percent were foreign-born but reported being legal permanent residents or naturalized citizens.

The study found that 89.3 percent of non-Latino white survey respondents had accessed medical services in 2005, compared to 68.8 percent of all Latinos and 54.8 percent of undocumented Latino immigrants. The type of care sought varied, with undocumented immigrants more apt to utilize hospital outpatient clinics, health centers and public health clinics, while legal immigrants and citizens – both Latino and white – frequented private doctors’ offices at a higher rate.

This contrast, said Chavez, is tied to health coverage. “Latinos with medical were 2.27 times as likely as those without it to seek medical care,” he said. “As a whole, legal immigrants and citizens were 72 percent more likely than undocumented Latinos to seek medical care.”

The findings are significant, Chavez noted, as underutilization of medical services is associated with poorer health and higher mortality rates. “Healthcare for undocumented immigrants has become so politicized that current healthcare reforms explicitly exclude them,” he said. “The reality is that they face great obstacles to obtaining healthcare, and it’s not clear at this point what will happen to them as a result of reforms.”
Chavez’s study, which may serve as a resource to healthcare policymakers, was funded by the UCI Center for Research on Latinos in a Global Society and will be included in an upcoming special issue of & Medicine devoted to immigrant healthcare.

More information: www.sciencedirect.com/science/… ii/S0277953611003005

Related Stories

Not a healthy state for all Latinos in the US

date Oct 28, 2009

Where Latinos are born and their immigration status affect the quality of health care they receive in the US, according to Professor Michael Rodríguez and colleagues from the UCLA Department of Family Medicine and ...

Recommended for you

Noise from fireworks threatens young ears

date Jul 03, 2015

(HealthDay)—The Fourth of July weekend is a time for celebrations and beautiful fireworks displays. But, parents do need to take steps to protect their children's ears from loud fireworks, a hearing expert ...

Many new teen drivers 'crash' in simulated driving task

date Jul 03, 2015

(HealthDay)—Around four in 10 newly licensed teen drivers "crashed" in a simulated driving test, suggesting that many adolescents lack the skills they need to stay safe on the road, according to a new study.

Feeling impulsive or frustrated? Take a nap

date Jul 03, 2015

Taking a nap may be an effective strategy to counteract impulsive behavior and to boost tolerance for frustration, according to a University of Michigan study.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.