Study finds immigrants account for only 1.4 percent of US medical spending

A study by a University of Nebraska Medical Center researcher revealed that unauthorized immigrants have lower health care expenditures compared to legal residents, naturalized citizens and U.S. natives.

The study, which analyzed data from the medical expenditure panel survey taken between 2000 and 2009, was conducted by Jim Stimpson, Ph.D., director of the Center for Health Policy at UNMC. Results were published in the June issue of the health policy journal, Health Affairs.

It was found that U.S. natives spent $1 trillion on health care. By contrast all immigrants – unauthorized, legal and illegal – spent one-tenth that amount or $96.7 billion. Unauthorized immigrants accounted for $15.4 billion of that total, or 15.9 percent.

It also was found that an estimated 5.9 percent of unauthorized immigrants received care that providers are not reimbursed for, compared to 2.8 percent of U.S. natives in the same category. Dr. Stimpson speculated that this may be because unauthorized immigrants are much more likely to lack health insurance when compared to U.S. natives.

These findings reflect a history of policies that block access to health care for unauthorized immigrants, he said.

"Today, and persons who immigrated less than five years ago have few options for through public programs, leaving only the option to pay out of pocket or to secure private insurance," Dr. Stimpson said.

The safety net, he said, available for includes and federally qualified health centers.

Such limited access is not optimal for accessing quality care and finding a medical home, Dr. Stimpson said.

"These policies have merely shifted the financial burden of paying for the care of immigrants, and have potentially put the public's health at risk, when those who have infectious diseases defer treatment for illness," he said.

One way to remedy the problem, Dr. Stimpson said would be to give unauthorized immigrants access to preventive and treatment services for infectious diseases and to the insurance marketplace.

Related Stories

Immigration reform needs to address access to health care

date Mar 19, 2013

With comprehensive immigration reform a priority for President Obama and gaining bipartisan and public support, there is a need and an opportunity to consider how the millions of undocumented immigrants should be integrated ...

Recommended for you

The battle for the bedroom

date 1 hour ago

More and more of us are wishing each other goodnight by mobile phone. Unfortunately this means that we are sleeping increasingly badly. Now sleep researchers in Uppsala are creating an app to make us disconnect ...

Healthcare on (un)equal terms?

date 1 hour ago

Healthcare on equal terms is the basis of good public health. As socially exposed groups find it increasingly difficult to enter the healthcare system, our entire society risks becoming weaker, says Professor ...

Patient portals could widen health disparities

date 2 hours ago

Online sites that offer secure access to one's medical record, often referred to as patient portals, are increasingly important for doctor and patient communication and routine access to health care information. But patient ...

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.