Insurance woes, illegal aliens linked
By KEVIN FREKING, Associated Press WriterPosted: Thursday November 10th, 2005, 7:54 AMLast Updated: Thursday November 10th, 2005, 11:57
AMWASHINGTON (AP) – The increase in the number of people without health insurance has occurred largely because of illegal immigration, a study found.
Researchers at the RAND Corporation, a nonpartisan think tank, analyzed data received from about 2,400 people in Los Angeles County in 2000 and 2001, and applied that information to the nation’s undocumented population at large.
The number of uninsured adults in the United States grew by about 8.7 million between 1980 and 2000. If the trend for Los Angeles County held true for the rest of the country, about a third of that growth can be attributable to illegal immigrants.
The study does not diminish the severity of the problem of the uninsured. Nor does it call for some sort of health insurance coverage for illegals.
“That’s where I don’t go,” said James Smith, a senior economist at RAND. “That’s not a scientific question.”
Rather, the study shows that any meaningful impact on reducing the number of uninsured has to take into account the issue of illegal immigration, he said.
“There are pros and cons of providing insurance to the undocumented that should be debated openly,” he said. “Undocumented immigrants make up too much of the issue to be ignored or hidden by polite silence.”
The study also indicates that, since the number of illegal immigrants is growing rapidly, “we can expect that the uninsured population is going to grow rapidly as well,” said another study co-author, Neeraj Sood.
The researchers said about one in five illegal immigrant adults have some health insurance coverage through their work, but virtually none of them purchase it on their own. Also, they rarely make use of public insurance through programs such as Medicaid.
The study was published in the journal Health Affairs.