Health Care for Immigrant Families: Current Policies and Issues

Leighton Ku and Mariellen Jewers
Date of Publication: 
June, 2013
Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute

Health Care for Immigrant Families: Current Policies and Issues assesses how the current health care system in the U.S. addresses the health care needs of immigrants. Debunking the myth that immigrants abuse health care services, the report finds that immigrants, even when covered by public or private insurance, see doctors less frequently and use emergency rooms at a lower rate than the native-born.

Low-income, immigrant children with private insurance, for instance, were significantly less likely to visit a doctor's office in 2010 than low-income, native-born children at 44 percent versus 69 percent. Similarly, only 17 percent of publicly insured (Medicaid or Medicare), low-income, immigrant adults overall visited an emergency room versus 25 percent of low-income, native-born adults. Among uninsured adults, the rate was six percent for immigrants and 14 percent of the native-born.

Although low levels of insurance coverage (both public and private) does in part account for low utilization of health care by immigrants, there are other reasons as well, including language barriers, cultural differences, and worries over whether utilization will lead to deportation or revocation of legal status. The authors recommend that federal and state governments expand Medicaid access to legal permanent residents; support non-profit, community health centers; and increase access to interpreters. 

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Ku, L. and Jewers, M. (2013). Health Care for Immigrant Families: Current Policies and Issues. Washington, D.C.: Migration Policy Institute. Retrieved from