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A blog for the Coalition of Hispanic Organizations, a membership group based in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Immigrants and health care

Excerpt from AMERICAN HEALTH LINE National Journal's Daily Briefing
Tuesday, June 14, 2005


In 2003 immigrants accounted for 26% -- or 11.6 million people --of the nation's uninsured in 2003, a 70% increase from 1994, according to a study released Monday by the Employee BenefitResearch Institute, the Wall Street Journal reports (Goldfarb,Wall Street Journal, 6/14). The study, led by EBRI Director of Health Research Paul Fronstin and based on census data from between 1994 and 2003, found: - Noncitizens were more than twice as likely to be uninsured as naturalized citizens; - Immigrants who arrived in the United States after 2000 were twice as likely to be uninsured as those who arrived before 1970; - 60% of uninsured immigrants lived in four states -- California (27%),Texas (15%), New York (10%) and Florida (9%) (Lipman, AtlantaJournal-Constitution, 6/14); and - Immigrants represented 86% of the growth in the number of uninsured between 1998 and 2003. In addition, the study found that 60% of Latinos immigrants are uninsured, compared with 22% of those born in the United States(Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times, 6/14). The study did not distinguish between undocumented and documented immigrants.

FRONSTIN EXPLANATION Fronstin said one reason for the increase of uninsured might have been the 1996 welfare-reform law, which imposed a five-year restriction on new immigrants for enrollment in public benefit programs such as Medicaid (Wall Street Journal, 6/14). Fronstin also said that increasing health insurance premiums,age, occupation and culture contribute to the number of uninsured immigrants (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/14).Fronstin said, "They are uninsured because health costs are rising. They are uninsured because they are disproportionately employed by small businesses. They are uninsured because they have service and agricultural jobs that are less likely to come with benefits" (Los Angeles Times, 6/14). He said, "To the degree that immigration continues to increase, it is likely that the uninsured will also continue to increase" (CQ HealthBeat,6/13). Fronstin said the results of the study will "put added pressure on policy makers to address the issues of the uninsured" (Gibson, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 6/14).REA

REACTION Jennifer Ng'andu, health policy analyst for the National Council of La Raza, said the report shows the need for healthcare reform that makes it easier for employers to offer coverage, as well as the need to increase access to government-sponsored health insurance programs. She said, "When immigrants are offered health insurance coverage, ... even though it is expensive, they will pay for it because they realize health coverage is essential to access the health care system" (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/14). Rep. Tom Tancredo(R-Colo.) said, "These numbers are dramatic and are helpful in the debate we're having here. We've already told our colleagues a hundred times in a hundred ways the uninsured noncitizens in this country are creating an enormous burden on our health care system" (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 6/14). Steven Camarota,research director at the Center for Immigration Studies, said,"What this tells us is there is a very high cost to cheap labor"(Los Angeles Times, 6/14).