Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Friday, May 9, 2014

UCLA Researchers Say Undocumented Immigrants Rely on Health Services Less Than Uninsured Americans

Posted By on Fri, May 9, 2014 at 7:00 AM

click to enlarge FLICKR/ESPELINA

Contrary to what anti-immigration folks might think, researchers at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research have confirmed that undocumented immigrants in California use health services less than U.S. citizens who don't have insurance.

That contradicts the thought that undocumented immigrants overuse emergency rooms, driving up the cost of health care.

The new study published on May 5 in the Health Affairs journal revealed that while 12 percent of uninsured citizens use the ER, only 9 percent of the undocumented population goes to the ER annually. It also showed that undocumented adults visit the doctor's office 1.7 times a year while uninsured U.S. citizens visit 1.8 times a year. What's more, they found that the average insured U.S. citizen visits the doctor 3.2 times a year; nearly double that of an undocumented patient.

Uninsured patients tend to visit the ER more often because they don't have primary care providers to assist them with minor issues, thus they wait until the medical problem becomes dire enough to seek emergency care.

Also, out of all of the uninsured adults in California, undocumented immigrants use the ER the least. Nadereh Pourat, the lead author of the study, says that's because undocumented immigrants feel less safe using services that might require them to show documents. They usually turn to the ER as a last resort.

"The undocumented who end up in the emergency room have often delayed getting any care until they are critically sick," Pourat explains.

The UCLA researchers suggested that a lack of health care for undocumented citizens means that the public will have to pay more for expensive care administered in the ER. As more than 2.2 million of California's population are undocumented, those visits to the emergency room that could have been prevented eventually adds up. Although the Affordable Care Act extended health care to 3.3 million previously uninsured Californians, it didn't include the 2.2 million undocumented in the state.

Pourat and the other study authors argue that if undocumented immigrants in California were able to purchase unsubsidized coverage, they would be able to maintain low premiums in the state.

Referencing the agricultural, service and construction work that the undocumented immigrant population contribute to maintain California's economy, Pourat says that it only makes sense for them to also "have affordable health coverage options so they can stay healthy."

  • Pin It

About The Author

Melissa Hellmann


Comments are closed.

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"