Immigration Proposals Could Increase Medicaid Costs
Legislative proposals that would provide "legal status to millions of illegal immigrants could boost Medicaid and welfare costs, increasing projected budget deficits and thwarting efforts to curb the growth of entitlement programs," CQ Today reports. Under the 1996 welfare law, legal immigrants cannot apply for Medicaid or welfare benefits during their first five years in the U.S., but state officials and fiscally conservative lawmakers "fear the potential for vast new entitlement spending over the longer term," according the CQ Today.
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said that proposals to provide legal status to undocumented immigrants would increase the cost of entitlement programs, adding, "It could be pretty big, and ... nobody knows how big. (Medicaid) is one of the issues people haven't grappled with yet."
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said, "Americans taxpayers will pay if this legislation passes. It will be a drain on our programs that are designed to provide health care and assistance to American citizens and those who came here lawfully."
According to Ann Morse, director of the immigrant policy project at the National Conferences of State Legislatures, "States are extremely concerned about the federal government pushing forward an immigration bill that doesn't account for the costs of health care."
However, Leighton Ku, a senior fellow in health policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said that proposals to provide legal status to undocumented immigrants likely would have a small effect on Medicaid costs because most of the affected immigrants would not "be in the income range for Medicaid."
William Beach, director of the data analysis center at the Heritage Foundation, added that affected immigrants would pay taxes to help cover the cost of Medicaid and other social programs.
Ira Mehlman, media director at the Federation for American Immigration Reform, disagreed, adding, "Medicaid is the program that most uninsured low-income [people] rely on. If you make them legal, they'll take advantage of it" (Schuler, CQ Today, 4/14).