Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The cost of immigrant health care

According to a post on HealthAffairs (Stimpson, Wilson, Eschbach):

The suspected burden that undocumented immigrants may place on the U.S. health care system has been a flashpoint in health care and immigration reform debates. An examination of health care spending during 1999–2006 for adult naturalized citizens and immigrant noncitizens (which includes some undocumented immigrants) finds that the cost of providing health care to immigrants is lower than that of providing care to U.S. natives and that immigrants are not contributing disproportionately to high health care costs in public programs such as Medicaid. However, noncitizen immigrants were found to be more likely than U.S. natives to have a health care visit classified as uncompensated care.

The cost is lower on a per person basis, but it’s more likely to be uncompensated care.  Both conclusions seem obvious: (1) cost is lower because those without insurance are likely to put off needed services and (2) recent immigrants and the undocumented population are proportionally more likely to be under/uninsured.

If we provide reasonable insurance for all, including preventive services and basic primary care, then won’t we save money in the long run?  This has been well documented but completely absent from the current health reform debate.

I can’t figure out why…

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