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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Holes in the Safety Net — Legal Immigrants' Access to Health Insurance

Immigrant workers are entitled to workers' compensation benefits in most jurisdictions even if they are in the US without status. Ongoing Congressional changes to the nation's immigration system will have significant impact on the delivery of healthcare to immigrant workers.Today's post was shared by NEJM and comes from

Interview with Dr. Benjamin Sommers and Prof. Wendy Parmet on the limited health care and insurance options for both legal and undocumented U.S. immigrants.
While Congress debates whether publicly supported health care should be available to undocumented immigrants who may be placed on a path to citizenship under immigration reform, the health care needs of already legal immigrants continues to be overlooked.

More than 12 million immigrants are lawfully present in the United States. They serve in the military, pay taxes, and contribute to the economy. Yet like undocumented immigrants, whose health care vulnerabilities are outlined in the Perspective article by Sommers, legal immigrants face substantial barriers to obtaining insurance coverage (see graph Health Insurance, According to Citizenship Status, 2009.). As a result, some — such as Antonio Torres, an uninsured Arizona farmworker who was in a coma after a car accident — have been forcefully transferred to their native country when their treating hospitals were unable to find facilities willing to provide them with long-term care.1

Legal immigrants form a highly heterogeneous group that includes legal permanent residents (“green card holders”), refugees, asylum seekers, and many others. Because of the heterogeneity of the class and the complexity of immigration categories, information on the proportion insured is scarce. Augmenting data from the 2008 Current Population Survey, the Pew Hispanic Center reports that 24% of legal immigrants were uninsured in 2008, as compared with 59% of unauthorized immigrants and 14% of native citizens.2 In a 2005...

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