More Immigrant Children Uninsured

Despite a 1999 federal ruling that relieved immigrant families of a requirement to repay the U.S. government for Medicaid benefits, immigrant children did not increase their usage of publicly funded health insurance programmes. Even after taking into account significant socioeconomic differences between U.S.-born and foreign-born children, the vast majority of immigrant children are much more likely to be uninsured, living in poverty, and have parents with less than a high school education, according to the study. The results are based on the analysis of data collected from 33,317 children for the 1997 to 2004 National Health Interview Survey.

"The large number of uninsured foreign-born children raises concerns about their long- term health and functional outcomes because regular health care supervision is critical to achieve optimal growth and development," said study author Susmita Pati. "The cost of providing preventive primary care to children is relatively small when compared to other health care costs."

The study looked at data over the seven-year period to determine if foreign-born children were increasingly reliant on public health insurance programmes after the 1999 reversal of the so-called "public charge rule". The public charge rule of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 initially required families to repay the U.S. government for public health benefits, including Medicaid, previously received at no cost. In 1999, the government specified that Medicaid benefits would be exempted from the public charge rule.

According to the study results, low-income U.S.-born children were just as likely as foreign-born children to have public insurance coverage. After 2000, foreign-born children were 1.59 times more likely than U.S.-born children to be uninsured versus publicly insured. Therefore, children were less likely to participate in public insurance programmes after reversal of the public charge rule. Less than one-third of foreign-born children were publicly insured compared to more than 40 percent of U.S. children during this time.

MEDICA.de; Source: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia