US immigrants help to subsidise Medicare

A new study has revealed that immigrants in the United States – including those living there illegally – put far more money into the country’s Medicare system than they consume.

Healthcare Professionals

Healthcare Professionals

According to a new study published in Health Affairs magazine, immigrants contributed a combined $33.6 billion to the Medicare hospital insurance trust fund in 2009 (almost 15 per cent of all contributions) while using about $19.3 billion in hospital expenditures (about 8 per cent Medicare hospital spending).

“The assumption that immigrants are just a drain has been a part of the argument that people should be denied services,” said Leah Zallman, a lead researcher of the report and an instructor at Harvard Medical School. “Immigration policy has been closely linked to Medicare’s finances.

“I was surprised by the degree of subsidy,” Zallman admitted. “We didn’t see any changes in the amount of the [immigrant] subsidy each year, but there was a decline in net contribution of US-born citizens.”

The results of the study have been released at a critical time. With a proposed immigration reform bill slated to be debated in Congress in a couple of weeks, one of the main arguments for those against reform – that immigrants are a drain on the country’s resources – has been proved inaccurate. This report shows that restricting immigration could actually severely deplete the Medicare fund.

“Encouraging a steady flow of young immigrants would help offset the aging of the US population and the health care financing challenge that it presents,” states the report.

The study’s results are based on linked data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and the National Health Interview Survey.

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