CHICAGO (Reuters) - Insured immigrants have lower medical expenses than U.S.-born citizens, even after accounting for lower levels of insurance coverage, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.
They said the findings contradict the popular belief that immigrants are a drain on the U.S. health system.
“Many people claim that immigrants are using large health care expenditures in the United States and they are causing emergency room bills to soar,” said Leighton Ku, a health policy researcher at George Washington University, whose study appears in the American Journal of Public Health.
“When you control for their health status and all sorts of characteristics like age, they actually have medical expenditures that are far below those of U.S. citizens,” Ku said in a telephone interview.
Ku and colleagues studied data on adults aged 19-64 from the 2003 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a survey of health expenditures, and found that about 44 percent of recent immigrants and 63 percent of established immigrants were fully insured.
After controlling for other factors, Ku found that immigrants’ medical costs averaged about 14 percent to 20 percent less than those who were born in the United States.
“Being a recent immigrant or an established immigrant was independently associated with both a reduced likelihood of using any medical care in the year and with lower total medical expenditure levels, compared with US-born adults,” Ku wrote.
Editing by Alan Elsner