Posted on November 17, 2006
Healthcare Costs for Illegal Immigrants Not a Burden, Study Finds
Illegal Immigrants' Health Care Costs Little in Public Money, Study Finds
Health care for illegal immigrants between the ages of 18 and 64 cost American taxpayers $1.1 billion in 2000, or about $11 per household, according to a new study from the Rand Corporation.
Based on a questionnaire completed by 2,543 adults in sixty-five Los Angeles County neighborhoods, the study found that immigrants to the United States use relatively few health services, primarily because they are generally healthier than their American-born counterparts; that nearly 22 percent of illegal immigrants have health insurance, which covered about $362 million in costs in 2000; and that immigrants paid $321 million for health care out of pocket. The study also estimated that 40 percent of undocumented male immigrants have never received a medical checkup while 23 percent have never seen a doctor, compared with 21 percent and 10 percent, respectively, for native-born Americans. Similarly, among undocumented female immigrants, 21 percent have never gotten a checkup, compared with 5 percent of U.S.-born women. According to Jim Smith, a senior economist with Rand and an author of the report, the report's findings suggest that while there are taxpayer implications to illegal immigration, picking up the tab for health care is not one of them.
The report's conclusions, according to the Los Angeles Times, were questioned by the D.C.-based Federation for American Immigration Reform, which estimates the total cost of health care for illegal immigrants in California alone at $1.4 billion — a figure Rand puts at $204 million. "From the studies that we have done, [the Rand study] certainly is a low-ball estimate," federation spokesman Jack Martin told the Times.
Margaret Laws, director of public financing and policy for the California HealthCare Foundation, said she welcomed the study as a more scientific look that provides a point of comparison. "Short of hospitals collecting and reporting data in a way they don't now, there is no other way to measure this," she said. "It is the best thing we have."