Legal and illegal immigrants use fewer medical services and contribute less to healthcare costs than others not only because many lack health insurance, but also because they are generally in better health, according to a RAND Corp. study. The lower use of medical services by immigrants is driven in part by their lower rates of insurance, Dana Goldman, lead author of the study, said in a news release. But the largest factor appears to be due to their being generally healthier than the native-born population. Immigrants tend to be younger, and healthier people are both more likely to migrate to and more likely to be accepted into another country, the authors said.
The study, published in the November-December Health Affairs, drew on data from a 2000 survey of about 2,500 adults in the Los Angeles area. About 68% of the undocumented immigrants surveyed were uninsured, compared with 23% of the U.S. citizens. Some 27% of foreign-born residents and 19% of undocumented immigrants reported having a chronic health condition, compared with 38% of native-born adults. Extrapolating from the survey results, researchers estimated that nonelderly undocumented immigrants accounted for $6.5 billion of the $429 billion spent on healthcare for nonelderly adults in the U.S. in 2000. About $1.1 billion of the total spent on undocumented immigrants came from publicly supported health services, RAND estimated. Read the abstract. -- by Jessica Zigmond