Immigrants Had Little Impact on Mid-90s Rise in Uninsured Rate
The rise in the number of uninsured Americans between 1994 and 1998 "had little to do with recent immigrants," finds a new report released today by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured as part of a briefing packet, titled "Immigrants: Coverage and Access." The report, titled "Is Immigration Responsible for the Growth in the Number of Uninsured?" examined the health insurance information of immigrants who had resided in the United States for four years or less in 1994 and 1998, finding 100,000 fewer uninsured recent immigrants in 1998. The total national uninsured volume grew by 4.2 million people in that same period. "Immigrants have very high uninsured rates, but represent only a small portion of the nation's 42 million uninsured," KCMU Executive Director Diane Rowland said. According to the report, lack of access to public health insurance programs "contributes to high rates of uninsurance" among immigrants, with 58% lacking health coverage. Immigrants have long used Medicaid as a "safety net health coverage program," but the 1996 welfare reform act "now restricts Medicaid coverage for most new legal immigrants." Despite the federal law, a separate report released by KCMU in February found some cities provide access to health care for immigrants. The studied cities, located in four states with large immigrant populations, often offer "limited" health insurance to immigrants and are "enhancing" their safety networks of providers, including public and not-for-profit hospitals and clinics that offer "free or discounted" services. Providers and state governments have also found "ways to overcome traditional barriers to care for immigrants," such as partnerships between community groups, religious organizations and foundations. However, the February report concluded that the "changing nature of the economy makes it unclear whether current measures are sufficient or can be sustained" (KCMU release, 4/20). To view the briefing packet, which contains both the aforementioned reports as well as other materials, go to http://www.kff.org/content/2001/2241/. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view individual reports.