Immigrants Paid $115 Billion More to Medicare than Amount of Benefits They Received
While Congress debates the merits of immigration reform and whether to legalize the nation’s 11 million unauthorized immigrants, a new study shows immigrants contribute far more to Medicare than they receive in terms of medical care.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School analyzed immigrants’ contributions to the area of Medicare that covers hospital care and found they generated surpluses totaling $115 billion from 2002 to 2009. Immigrants made 14.7% of all contributions to that fund in 2009, but only received 7.9% of its benefits.
In comparison, those born in the U.S. used more in benefits than they paid into Medicare, creating a deficit of $28 billion over the same period.
The numbers demonstrate that immigrants are not a drain on federal health care spending, as anti-immigration voices contend.
“There’s this strong belief that immigrants are takers,” Leighton Ku, director of the Center for Health Policy Research at George Washington University, told The New York Times. “This shows they are contributing hugely. Without immigrants, the Medicare trust fund would be in trouble sooner.”
Immigrants help make up the younger strata of society who pay into programs like Medicare, but don’t access them yet because they are not age eligible. This allows the money they pay through taxes to go towards covering the medical costs of older generations, such as the retiring Baby Boomers who are increasingly turning to federal health care coverage.
The study utilized data culled from two federal surveys conducted by the Census Bureau and the Department of Health and Human Services. Included in the analysis were Medicare contributions made by unauthorized immigrants, non-citizen legal residents, and foreign-born citizens.
To Learn More:
For Medicare, Immigrants Offer Surplus, Study Finds (by Sabrina Tavernise, New York Times)
Immigrants Subsidize Medicare Recipients, Study Says (by Kelly Kennedy, USA Today)
Study: Immigrants Boost Medicare Hospital Fund (by Sara Murray, Wall Street Journal)
Immigrants Contributed An Estimated $115.2 Billion More To The Medicare Trust Fund Than They Took Out In 2002–09 (by Leah Zallman, Steffie Woolhandler, David Himmelstein, David Bor and Danny McCormick; Health Affairs) (pdf)
Illegal Workers Received $4 Billion in Refundable Tax Credits Last Year (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Illegal Immigrants Pay $11 Billion in Taxes a Year (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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