Posted on June 15, 2005

Immigrants Represent Most of Rise in Numbers of Uninsured

Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times, June 14

WASHINGTON — Immigrants accounted for nearly all of the recent increase in the number of U.S. residents without health insurance, and California has by far the largest number of uninsured immigrants, a study released Monday found.

“The face of the uninsured is changing, and it is more likely to be an immigrant today than it was 10 years ago,” said Paul Fronstin, director of health research at the Employee Benefit Research Institute here. “As long as the immigrant population increases and nothing else changes, it’s going to drive up the number of uninsured.”

The unrelenting rise in the number of people without health insurance is widely seen as one of the most pressing social problems facing the country. The institute’s study suggested that any solution might require changes in immigration policy as well.

The study found that in 2003, the latest year for which data are available, more than 11 million immigrants were uninsured. That represented about a quarter of the 45 million people the U.S. Census Bureau estimates are uninsured.

Although native-born Americans account for the majority of the uninsured — about three-fourths of the total — the institute’s study found that between 1998 and 2003, immigrants represented 86% of the growth in the number of people lacking insurance.