Immigrants Have Lower Healthcare Costs Than U.S-Born Americans: Study

Immigrants use far less medical resources than non-immigrants, and may even subsidize medical care of U.S. citizens, according to a study.


Immigrants contribute more towards healthcare system in the United States than they withdraw, according to a recent study.

A study published in the International Journal of Health Services shows that immigrants use far less medical resources than non-immigrants, and may even subsidize healthcare of U.S. citizens, ABC News reported. The research thus contradicts the popular opinion held by over 50 percent Americans that immigrants are a financial drain to the United States’ healthcare system, the report added.

The study, titled “Medical Expenditures on and by Immigrant Populations in the United States: A Systematic Review,” provides a comparative analysis of the healthcare expenditures by U.S. born individuals and immigrants in the United States. Researchers at Harvard Medical School and Tufts University found that contrary to popular belief, the overall healthcare costs of immigrants across all age groups were one-half to two-thirds of those of people born in the country.

The research was conducted through a systematic analysis of over 2,000 peer-reviewed studies conducted in the United States about the expenditure by immigrants in healthcare. It found that per-capita medical expenditures were less for immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants. The immigrants population makes up to 12 percent of the total population while healthcare expenditure on them accounts for 8.6 percent of total U.S. spending.

While annual U.S. medical spending in 2016 was a staggering $3.3 trillion, immigrants accounted for less than 10 percent of the overall spending, and recent immigrants were responsible for only 1 percent of total spending, the study said.

Immigrant individuals made larger out-of-pocket payments for health care, compared to U.S.-born individuals. “Overall, immigrants almost certainly paid more toward medical expenses than they withdrew, providing a low-risk pool that subsidized the public and private health insurance markets,” the researchers said.

Restricting healthcare schemes to immigrants would financially destabilize some parts of the health care economy rather than helping it, according to Leah Zallman, a primary care physician at Cambridge Health Alliance in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who co-authored the study.

“Recent immigrants are substantially healthier than native-born Americans, which benefits the American healthcare economy,” co-author Lila Flavin, a medical student at Tufts University School of Medicine, said. “But to maintain their health over the long term, new immigrants — and all Americans – need access to good healthcare.”

The disparity in healthcare spending may result from a “healthy immigrant effect,” that is, recent immigrants tend to be young and healthier when they arrive, ABC News said.

“There is also higher family and social support among immigrants, which may foster improved health and less overall healthcare expenditures,” Dr. Julie Linton, Co-chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Immigrant Health Special Interest Group, told the publication.

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