Study : Illegal Immigrants Complicate Health Fight

Study: Illegal Immigrants Complicate Health Fight

By Kasie Hunt
Congress Daily, August 19, 2009 [Subscription]

Illegal immigration will make lowering healthcare costs harder, according to a study released today, although a Latino advocacy group called it disingenuous.

'It is very difficult to imagine getting our healthcare house in order without getting our immigration house in order,' said Steven Camarota, the director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies who conducted the study.

Immigrants — legal and illegal — are almost three times as likely to be uninsured than native-born Americans, and immigrants account for 27 percent of the total uninsured population, the study said.

The majority of immigrants have not finished high school, Camarota said, which means most have low-income jobs that do not provide health insurance, and the low wages mean workers are unable to afford it.

Camarota estimated the cost of insuring all immigrants could cost the government $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years. His study was based on data from the 2008 Current Population Survey, which is conducted by the Census Bureau.

Latino advocacy groups dismissed the study. National Council of La Raza President Janet Murguia called the work 'just the latest example in a campaign to erode efforts to ensure that quality, affordable health care is available to American families and workers.'

'No one offered constructive ideas on how to solve the nation's healthcare problems. We cannot allow this important dialogue to be tainted by disingenuous rhetoric,' Murgua said. 'We have a choice: We can use this crucial time to shape workable healthcare reform proposals for our families, or we can waste it away by caving to the disruptive behavior of those who will never support reform.'

The question of how to handle illegal immigrants in health reform has already bubbled to the surface on Capitol Hill. With House Democrats merging three versions of the legislation and the Senate Finance Committee yet to release a bipartisan bill, it remains unresolved.

Questions about how illegal immigrants will be handled also have popped up at town hall meetings across the country that members of Congress have been holding during the recess.

Congressional Republicans have warned that Democratic proposals to create a public option would allow illegal immigrants to receive health care.

Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Ga., offered an amendment in the House Energy and Commerce Committee markup that would have required people to prove their citizenship status before receiving publicly funded care.

The amendment failed, with Democrats, led by Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman, arguing the provisions could harm low-income Americans who do not have citizenship documentation readily available or deny people care at the emergency room.

EDITOR'S NOTE: A memorandum detailing the panel discussion is available online at: