Insured and Uninsured
A review of studies on immigration and its relationship with public benefits reveals that there is little evidence to suggest that health coverage through public health insurance programs motivates undocumented immigrants to come to the U.S., a research brief from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research found.
A study evaluated by the authors reported that fewer than 1% of undocumented immigrants in four communities in Texas and California cited the availability of health care services in the U.S. as the most important reason for immigrating.
The brief concludes that public policy related to immigration and welfare programs "would be better served by moving away from a welfare magnet framework toward an evidence-based understanding of immigration and public benefits utilization" (Wallace/Yang, UCLA Health Policy Research Brief, July 2007).
Laws and bureaucratic obstacles that reduce the use of preventive health services for immigrants "make for bad public health policy" and "ultimately [increase] health care costs for everyone," Susan Okie, a contributing editor to the New England Journal of Medicine, writes in a commentary.
Recent analyses of immigration and health care coverage indicate that immigrants "contribute more to the economy in taxes than they receive in public benefit," Okie writes.
Other barriers "designed to strengthen enforcement of eligibility rules" for public health insurance programs "have created new barriers, even for infants and children who are citizens, and have had a chilling effect on other programs providing health services for immigrants," according to Okie.
Okie concludes that "the remedy, however, is not immigrant bashing, but health care reform" (Okie, New England Journal of Medicine, 8/9).