The Impact Of Immigrants On State Medicaid Budgets

Frank Vernuccio
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Posted: Jan 31, 2018 9:47 AM
The Impact Of Immigrants On State Medicaid Budgets

What is the impact of immigrants on state Medicaid budgets?

Medicaid, which is jointly funded by the states and the federal government, is the chief source of state financing to pay for the health needs of low-income residents. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, it represents $1 out of every $6 spent on healthcare in the US. The Pew Charitable Trust analyzed state Medicaid data. Examining budgets from 2000—2013, it found that the percentage of states’ own funds spent on Medicaid in fiscal year 2013 was higher in 49 states.

In 2014, A report by the Center for Immigration Studies analyzed government data, and found that immigrants and their children accounted for 42 percent revealed that of the growth in Medicaid enrollment from 2011 to 2013. Among the report’s findings:

  • "The number of immigrants and their U.S.-born children (under 18) on Medicaid grew twice as fast as the number of natives and their children on Medicaid from 2011 to 2013 — 11 percent vs. 5 percent.
  • About two-thirds of the growth in Medicaid associated with immigrants was among immigrants themselves, rather than the U.S.-born children of immigrants.
  • The increase in Medicaid enrollment among immigrants and their children can be roughly estimated as costing $4.6 billion annually. By 2013, 25 percent of immigrants and their children were on Medicaid, compared to 16 percent of natives and their children.”

Those immigrants who enter the United States illegally present special, and potentially costly, health care concerns. Officially, Illegal aliens are not eligible for Medicaid, other than limited emergency services, and Obamacare omits coverage for them.  However, their U.S.-born children are eligible. It should also be noted that individual states may choose to use their own resources to pay for the health care needs of illegals.

A 2007 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) study reported:

“State and local governments incur costs for providing services to unauthorized immigrants and have limited options for avoiding or minimizing those costs […] Rules governing many federal programs, as well as decisions handed down by various courts, limit the authority of state and local governments to avoid or constrain the costs of providing services to unauthorized immigrants […] The tax revenues that unauthorized immigrants generate for state and local governments do not offset the total cost of services provided to those immigrants.”

People entering the United States illegally from less developed areas present health care challenges.

The Southern Medical Association (SMA) reports that there’s a growing health concern over illegal immigrants bringing infectious diseases into the United States. Approximately 700,000 illegal immigrants enter annually, and three-quarters of these illegal immigrants come from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Those entering the U.S. legally are required to be screened for infectious disease.  One thinks of those vintage images of people being screened on Ellis Island. But similar examinations are not similarly performed on those entering the nation unauthorized. SMA notes:

“Illegal immigration may expose Americans to diseases that have been virtually eradicated, but are highly contagious, as in the case of TB […] Immigrants coming here have been documented as having communicable diseases such as tuberculosis and swine flu […] individuals coming in contact with people with these diseases are at risk of becoming infected. Those most vulnerable to contracting illnesses from illegals are the first responders such as the Border Patrol agents. In turn, they may pass diseases and conditions on to their children, spouses, seniors and those with whom they come in contact who have compromised immune systems […] It isn’t the diseases that we have been vaccinated against that are the most concerning, but ones like TB, which have developed multiple drug resistance, or tropical diseases such as Dengue fever that doctors may have difficulty diagnosing and for which there is no treatment.”

Frank Vernuccio serves as editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy & Government.