Study: Immigrants Are a Boon on U.S. Health Care Costs

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One of the most common myths about immigration in America is the oft-repeated claim that immigrants are a drain to our economy and our health care resources. In truth, as two new studies show, the complete opposite is true: Both documented and undocumented immigrants contribute far more to America’s coffers than they take out.

A report from the Partnership for a New American Economy, a non-partisan group founded by Michael Bloomberg, recently revealed a study showing how immigrants have prolonged the solvency of one of Medicare’s key trust funds, and helped subsidize care for U.S. seniors.

The study, prepared by Leah Zallman of the Institute of Community Health at Harvard Medical School, details immigrant contributions to Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, a pool of funds covering services like hospitalizations and home health care.

Using data from the Current Population Survey and the Medicare Expenditure Panel Survey, the report showed:

  • In the period from 1996 to 2011, immigrants contributed $182.4 billion more to Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund than was expended on their benefits.
  • From 2008 to 2011, a period when the Great Recession and its after effects eroded trust fund contributions, Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund operated at a deficit. Immigrants, however, mitigated the losses by generating surpluses during this time, including a $16.3 billion surplus during the height of the recession in 2008.
  • While immigrants contributed a net of $182.4 billion from 1996 to 2011, the U.S.-born population generated a deficit of $68.7 billion during the same period.

“This has been a myth for a long time that needs to be continually debunked,” said Hanna Siegel, the deputy director for the Partnership for a New American Economy. “This is part of our mission, to put hard data from credible academics into the conversation, and hopefully show people the truth.”

The report comes on the heels of another recent study, highlighted by, that Social Security has become more stable thanks to the more than 3.1 million people in the U.S. who are working and paying taxes using fake or expired Social Security numbers. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), every year undocumented immigrants have collectively paid as much as $13 billion into the system while receiving only $1 billion in benefits in return.

“It’s really important for Long Islanders, and all Americans, to realize that immigrants are more diverse, and are contributing more than is usually understood,” said David Kallick, an analyst at the Fiscal Policy Institute. “People are paying in, and getting almost nothing back.”

He added, “You also have to look at Long Island in particular, which has seen an outflow of young adults in recent years, getting a big influx of younger immigrants who are helping offset the aging population.”