Immigrants pay Medicare more than what they receive in care

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted June 10, 2013

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

Immigrants paid $115.2 billion more into Medicare’s trust fund from 2002 to 2009 than they incurred in benefits, according to a study published online May 29 in Health Affairs.

Population data show that immigrants, both U.S. citizens and noncitizens, made 14.7% of trust fund contributions but accounted for only 7.9% of Medicare spending under the hospital benefit of the program in 2009. This left a net surplus of $13.8 billion to Medicare from immigrants for that year.

Other studies have found that immigrants consume less health care than U.S.-born patients, but the role immigrants play in Medicare has not been fully understood, wrote lead author Leah Zallman, MD, an internist and an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston. The Health Affairs study estimated Medicare spending on foreign-born citizens and noncitizens using data from medical expenditure surveys (link).

Immigrants accounted for 4.8% of hospitalization spending, 14.2% of home health expenditures and 11.8% of trust fund spending on Medicare Advantage premiums. On average, spending was nearly $1,500 lower for immigrants than for other Medicare enrollees.

“Providing a path to citizenship for currently undocumented immigrants would affect Medicare’s finances in multiple ways,” Dr. Zallman and her colleagues wrote. “It would likely increase payroll tax collections by reducing immigrants’ ‘off the books’ employment and removing barriers that keep them out of higher-paying jobs. But in the long term, it would probably increase the number of immigrants eligible for Medicare, and hence expenditures on their behalf.”

Still, younger immigrants could help offset the price of care for the aging U.S. population, the study stated. Some of the authors are involved with Physicians for a National Health Program, which supports a single-payer health system in the U.S.

Back to top



Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story

Read story


American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story

Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story

Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story

Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story

Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story

Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story

Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story

  • Stay informed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS
  • LinkedIn