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Immigrants and health insurance

Posted by: Michael Mandel on September 27

Jane Galt points out something that I did not know: The decline in health insurance coverage in recent years has mainly come among immigrants, not native-born Americans.

Here’s the numbers (they come from the census bureau).

Covered by Health Insurance
1995 2000 2005
native-born 86.4 88.1 86.6
foreign born
naturalized citizens 84.2 83.6 82.1
non-citizens 59.6 58.3 56.4

For native-born Americans, the percentage covered by health insurance rose from 1995 to 2000, the peak of the business cycle, and then fell back to roughly the same level in 2005. To me, this looks like purely a business cycle effect.

By contrast, for immigrant citizens and noncitizens, the trend in health insurance has been down.

Does this mean the health insurance crisis could be fixed by treating immigrants better?

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Reader Comments


September 28, 2006 12:45 PM

«treating immigrants better?»

That's a politically ridiculous fantasy.

Even the naturalized citizen is often considered not entirely ''one of us'' by native citizens. The current mood of voters, which are the richer, more established half of the citizens entitled to vote, seems to me to be ''f*ck you, I am fully vested''. And of course non-citizens cannot vote. Why would any politician want to raise costs on voters to benefit people who can't vote for him?

The idea that ''fully vested'' prosperous middle class native families from the suburbs would volunteer to spend more of their precious salaries and capital gains on health care for immigrants instead of aspirational goods or college for their children seems to me quite imaginative. Also look at the 14% of citizens who have no health insurance. Well, too bad for them.

In "The Right Nation" there is chapter about life in Hastert's suburban district. Those living there don't have health care as their primary worry.

Also, there is health insurance and health insurance. Perhaps the number of those covered has stayed roughly constant among citizens, but the coverage per person has been shrinking often dramatically. In the meantime those companies whose labor force is mostly

If there is to be some push for national health insurance it is going to come from businesses as they reach the limit of how much they shrink the coverage they offer employees. A classic way to socialize costs but not profits, like the EITC. Some good may come from it.


October 1, 2006 01:43 PM

I think it means that it isn't a crisis at all. Like the guy said. They would not be better off getting their health care in Guatemala.

Kathleen Knese

October 3, 2006 06:12 PM

Here's a thought: How about putting all non-citizen immigrants, including the illegals, onto Medicaid and deducting their premiums from the foreign aid we pay to their motherlands? The local born benefit because the immigrants have access to healthcare to treat diseases like Tuberculosis before we catch it. The immigrants benefit from better healthcare. The countries that the immigrants are running from get punished because they have to pay for the mess they caused by letting unemployment and poverty spiral out of control.

Mike Mandel

October 4, 2006 04:23 PM

Do we really want to punish the poor countries?


October 6, 2006 11:24 PM

We are in danger of losing our character, identity and even status as a first-class nation.

We are not, nor should we ever become, the United States of Mexico. Poverty, in the case of third-world nations, is primarily a self-imposed condition when you look at the birth rate in relation to available resources.

For some reason, we continue to import peoples who offer no human capital to a country that is simultanously outsourcing, losing its manufacturing capacity, and teaching its enemies how to build nuclear weapons. We continually allow, legally, those same groups that will potentially form the future terrorist cells. How many Germans and Japanese were allowed to immigrate to this country during WWII? Not all refugees are created equal. We can either protect ourselves and our interests, or we will be overtaken from within.

Frans Bouman

October 7, 2006 03:19 PM

No health care crisis? Insurance premiums are up, coverage is down. Overall costs are rising at double-digit rates while median incomes are declining. The U.S. medical system costs far more and delivers far less than virtually any other first world. The WHO 2000 report on health systems which ranks member states based on 1997 data rates the U.S. as 37th in the world in overall health system performance behind such countries as the UAE (27th), the UK (18th), Singapore (6th), Spain (7th), Portugal (12th), Oman (8th), Morocco, (29th), Malta (5th), Japan (10th), Italy (2nd), Greece (14th), France (1st), Cyprus (24th), Canada (30th), Austria (9th) and Andorra (4th). In fact, we are just slightly better than Cuba (39th) and Slovenia (38th). Having the good fortune to have lived in Singapore for a few years I was spoiled by its caring health practitioners, state of the art facilities and low cost (even though expats pay more, the costs are still far, far lower than in the U.S.
  Perhaps someone is comforted by knowing that our system is slightly better than Cuba's, I'm not...
    Based on anecdotal reports I receive from my acquainances abroad, the disparity is rapidly growing. The U.S. health system is in crisis and the discussion about insurance coverage for immigrants is no more than an unhelpful distraction.


October 16, 2006 10:36 AM

No, you count illegals as immigrants. Why have laws if they are not enforced? These people are illegal and should leave and be kept out. The US govt and the Texas govt chose not to enforce the law, the govt entities treat the illegals' employers even better. The employers have their worker wages subsidized by each and every person in Texas. In Houston, our school taxes are about 3x's what they should be just to educate and feed the illegal poplulation. We pay about the same in city tax as to the hospital district just to cover health care for 'emergencies' mostly from illegals. These people are breaking the law, their employers are breaking the law. For more than 25 years Texas and US have not enforced the law. Why treat anyone better who is breaking the law?


March 12, 2007 11:51 PM

Illeagle Immigrants are the crisis, not the medical field.
Knowingly committing fraud whether it be financial, social security, drivers license,or our character
We the People are on the short end.


May 28, 2007 01:44 PM

A large part of U.S. expenditures is on pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceutical companies advertise on TV in the United States. They do not do this in countries who have lower healthcare expenditures per year. Our fast paced society breeds a desire for a short term, easy "quick fix" to problems. A large part of pharmaceutical company costs go to advertising and they need to recoup these costs. HHHmmmm....


January 29, 2009 05:12 PM

Who is benefiting from the high cost of health care? I suppose the insurance companies get a big stake out of it otherwise they wouldn't be in business.

joel hudlow

January 15, 2010 07:49 AM

The spanish are for the most part nice people .The problem is employers hiring them and putting skilled americans out of work,First it was the siding business then thr carpentry painting and roofing businesses.These employers become fat paying low wages.Most employers hire these people as subcontractors.They avoid paying workmens compensation and pass it on to the emplotees who find ways to defraud it.Those of us americans that dont own a business are put out of work and forcedto take large pay cuts so the few can get rich.Then on top of it they want to tax my wifes health insurance.Since shes the only one with a job i resent us having to give up the american dream so a select group of americans get wealthy while we lose our homes to immigrants that illegally pack into houses and are not subjected to the same laws that we are.Send the bastards back today.This is the usa .Not the world relief center

Thank you for your interest. This blog is no longer active.



Michael Mandel, BW's award-winning chief economist, provides his unique perspective on the hot economic issues of the day. From globalization to the future of work to the ups and downs of the financial markets, Mandel-named 2006 economic journalist of the year by the World Leadership Forum-offers cutting edge analysis and commentary.

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