Posted on June 14, 2005

Immigration and Heavy Burden of Medically Uninsured

Randall Parker,, June 9

The costs we pay for the medically uninsured are high and rising rapidly.

This study quantifies, for the first time, the dollar impact on private health insurance premiums when doctors and hospitals provide health care to uninsured people. In 2005, premium costs for family health insurance coverage provided by private employers will include an extra $922 in premiums due to the cost of care for the uninsured; premiums for individual coverage will cost an extra $341.

Nearly 48 million Americans will be uninsured for the entire year in 2005. What happens when some of these 48 million Americans get sick? Research has shown that the uninsured often put off getting care for health problems—or forgo care altogether.1 When the symptoms can no longer be ignored, the uninsured do see doctors and go to hospitals. Without insurance to pay the tab, the uninsured struggle to pay as much as they can: More than one-third (35 percent) of the total cost of health care services provided to people without health insurance is paid out-of-pocket by the uninsured themselves.2

To find out who pays the remainder of this bill—the portion that the uninsured themselves simply cannot manage to pay—Families USA contracted with Dr. Kenneth Thorpe, Robert W. Woodruff Professor and Chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, to analyze data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the National Center for Health Statistics, and other data. Through this study, we found that the remaining $43 billion is primarily paid by two sources: Roughly one-third is reimbursed by a number of government programs, and two-thirds is paid through higher premiums for people with health insurance.

As the costs of care for the uninsured are added to health insurance premiums that are already rising steeply, more employers can be expected to drop coverage, leaving even more people without insurance. And as more people lose coverage and the cost of their care is added to premiums for the insured, still more employers will drop coverage. It’s a vicious circle that will not end until we as a nation take steps to solve the underlying problems.

A significant portion of the uninsured are illegal aliens and their children (who in some cases are US citizens). Another significant portion are legal aliens. Higher medical insurance premiums and government support for the uninsured are two more ways that native born American citizens pay for low skilled and low wage immigrants and their children. Hispanics are medically uninsured at two and a half times the rate of whites. The medical uninsurance rate is higher still among illegals and their children. Stop the Hispanic influx and deport all the illegal aliens and the ranks of uninsured would drop by millions and perhaps even by tens of millions.

Some estimates put the ranks of illegals as high as 20 million. Estimates for the rate of increase are around a half million a year. So a lot of the projected increase in medical insurance by 2010 is to support the additional illegal aliens who wll enter the US in the next 5 years and the children who will be born to the illegal aliens who are already here.

The additional costs for medical insurance due to the uninsured will go up much more in just the next 5 years.

Washington, D.C. Premiums for employer-provided family health insurance will cost, on average, an extra $922 in 2005 to cover the unpaid expenses of health care for the uninsured, according to a report released today that quantifies such costs for the first time. These added costs account for one out of every $12 spent for employer-provided health insurance.

The report, issued by the health consumer organization Families USA, projects that these costs will rise to $1,502 in 2010.

According to the report, health insurance premiums for family coverage in six states will be at least $1,500 higher in 2005 due to the unpaid cost of health care for the uninsured. These states are New Mexico ($1,875); West Virginia ($1,796); Oklahoma ($1,781); Montana ($1,578); Texas ($1,551); and Arkansas ($1,514).

“The large and increasing number of uninsured Americans is no longer simply an altruistic concern on behalf of those without health coverage but a matter of self-interest for everyone,” said Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA. “The stakes are high both for businesses and for workers who do have health insurance because they bear the brunt of costs for the uninsured.”

By 2010, there will be 11 states in which employer-provided family health coverage will cost more than $2,000 extra to pay for health services to the uninsured. These states are New Mexico ($3,169); West Virginia ($2,940); Oklahoma ($2,911); Texas ($2,786); Arkansas ($2,748); Florida ($2,248); Alaska ($2,248); Montana ($2,190); Idaho ($2,152); Washington ($2,144); and Arizona ($2,028).

Ouch. So the employers who pay medical insurance are subsidizing the employers who do not pay medical insurance. As more employers drop insurance coverage the burden will fall more heavily on the remaining employers and more of those will drop coverage. This could snowball.

Note that New Mexico, which is getting flooded with illegal aliens will be worst hit in 2010 with family health coverage costing an extra $3169 per year to pay for the uninsured.

We could reverse this trend by deporting all the illegal aliens and stopping more illegals from entering the United States.