With the Trump administration reportedly close to unveiling a xenophobic proposal that portrays immigrants as leeches who exploit government healthcare programs at tremendous cost to U.S. taxpayers, a new study published on Wednesday shows that—contrary to the White House's narrative—immigrants effectively subsidize the care of native-born Americans by paying more into the healthcare system than they receive in treatment.
"To maintain their health over the long-term, new immigrants—and all Americans—need access to good healthcare. Denying care to immigrants is a human rights violation that cannot be justified based on costs, and indeed may raise costs in the future."
—Lila Flavin, Tufts University
"Overall, immigrants almost certainly paid more toward medical expenses than they withdrew, providing a low-risk pool that subsidized the public and private health insurance markets," researchers from Harvard Medical School and Tufts University write in a summary of their findings, which were published in the International Journal of Health Services. "We conclude that insurance and medical care should be made more available to immigrants rather than less so."
As NBC News reported on Tuesday, the White House—led by President Donald Trump's senior adviser Stephen Miller—is expected to release a plan in "the coming weeks" that will make it harder for legal immigrants who have used government programs like food stamps and Obamacare to become citizens. A spokeswoman for the State Department justified the widely denounced proposal as an effort to ensure "that foreign nationals seeking to enter or remain in the U.S. are self-sufficient."
In an email to Common Dreams, Dr. J. Wesley Boyd—associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and co-author of the new study—denounced the White House's reported plan and said the data clearly demonstrates that "the Trump administration's narrative is not based in fact but is simply part of a much broader attempt to penalize and disparage immigrants."
New @SAGE_News review of studies finds that immigrants effectively subsidize private and public health insurance programs by paying more into the system (through taxes and premiums) than is paid out for their care. https://t.co/wNsU47eBVS pic.twitter.com/ixc5FbGG5V
— PNHP (@PNHP) August 8, 2018
Lila Flavin—a medical student at Tufts University School of Medicine who co-authored the new study—argued in a statement that not only are immigrants "self-sufficient," they are also "propping up the Medicare Trust Fund by paying much more into Medicare than they will ever receive in benefits."
"Recent immigrants are substantially healthier than native-born Americans, which benefits the American healthcare economy," Flavin said. "But to maintain their health over the long-term, new immigrants—and all Americans—need access to good healthcare. Denying care to immigrants is a human rights violation that cannot be justified based on costs, and indeed may raise costs in the future."
"By working hard and building better lives for their families, immigrants have and continue to make our country stronger. This forthcoming Trump regulation would make us a poorer, sicker, hungrier, and weaker nation."
—National Immigration Law Center
Dr. Boyd concluded that "instead of attacking immigrants for driving up costs, we should recognize their proven economic contributions."
As immigrant rights groups noted in response to the Trump administration's reported plan, the White House is moving in precisely the opposite direction by attempting to demonize and punish immigrants who use government programs.
According to NBC, the Trump administration's proposal could ultimately affect "more than 20 million immigrants" and "fall particularly hard on immigrants working jobs that don't pay enough to support their families."
"By working hard and building better lives for their families, immigrants have and continue to make our country stronger. This forthcoming Trump regulation would make us a poorer, sicker, hungrier, and weaker nation," declared the National Immigration Law Center in a series of tweets on Tuesday. "But here's where the Trump administration is making a big mistake. Today, we are witnessing everyday Americans who have stood up, spoken out, and fought back against Trump's abuses. We must stand together and fight the challenges that lie ahead."