THURSDAY, June 20 (HealthDay News) -- Illegal immigrants account
for only 1.4 percent of health spending in the United States and
have lower health care costs than legal residents or naturalized
and U.S.-born citizens, according to a new study.
This suggests they have insufficient access to health care,
concludes study author Jim Stimpson, director of the Center for
Health Policy at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
The researchers analyzed data from 2000 to 2009 and found that
U.S.-born citizens spent $1 trillion on health care during that
time. Spending by all immigrants -- legal and illegal -- was $96.7
billion and illegal immigrants accounted for $15.4 billion of that
total, the researchers found.
"Today, undocumented immigrants and persons who immigrated less
than five years ago have few options for health care access through
public programs, leaving only the option to pay out of pocket or to
secure private insurance," Stimpson said in a university news
About 6 percent of illegal immigrants received care for which
providers were not reimbursed, compared with 2.8 percent of
U.S.-born citizens. This may be because the immigrants are much
more likely to have no health insurance, said Stimpson.
He said the findings, published in the June issue of the journal
Health Affairs, reflect a history of policies that block
access to care for unauthorized immigrants.
The safety net available for immigrants includes hospital
emergency rooms and federally qualified health centers, but this
type of limited access is insufficient, the researchers noted.
"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," Stimpson said.
He said illegal immigrants should be given access to preventive
and treatment services for infectious diseases and to the insurance
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security provides statistics on
immigrants in the U.S..